Industry Insider: Ben Sharpe of Taylormade

In April, Ben Sharpe was named the Chief Executive Officer and President at TaylorMade. Sharpe moved over to TaylorMade after serving as Executive Vice President of the Adidas Golf and Ashworth brands. Sharpe, 40, takes over for long-time TaylorMade leader Mark King, who was promoted to President of Adidas Group North America. 

Recently, Sharpe discussed his vision for TaylorMade and the future growth of the game with California Golf + Travel:

Q: Describe where TaylorMade is now and how you envision the future for the company.

At our core, we are a company that exists to serve the needs and wants of the golfer. We care passionately about the sport and its community and we are here to design and engineer products that resonate with the consumer. It’s been widely documented that the industry is currently facing a period of regress. This is the most challenging market we’ve faced as collective industry in the last decade. As markets change, our strategies need to be reinvented to adapt to the shift in consumer perception and purchasing habits. The golf industry generates nearly $70 billion annually, so the opportunity is certainly there and we’re excited about what lies ahead for our company as we strive to adapt and improve.

Q. What needs to happen to allow for TaylorMade to successfully react to the changing industry?

It all begins with innovation. Innovation is the genesis of everything we do and will be as long as there’s market demand. We have world class brands that have dominant category leadership, and we need to push the boundaries of innovation like never before to create market-leading products that are validated by the best players in the world and directly resonate with the consumer. As aforementioned, it’s critical to the success of our brands that we successfully reshape our distribution channels and develop strategies that we feel will be successful in the marketplace.

Q: In 2016, golf will return to the Olympics. Why do you think it has been absent for so long and how do you expect golf to perform on such a global stage?

When golf was last an Olympic sport, United States and Canada were the only two competing countries. Since then, golf has grown exponentially in our country, and, more importantly, globally. A quick look at the Official World Golf Rankings shows that the sport’s top players come from across the globe. Golf’s inclusion in the Olympics is vital to the growth of the game. In March, we announced that adidas Golf will be bringing its storied history in sport performance to the game as the official uniform provider for the athletes, coaches and staff of USA GOLF as they pursue the ultimate in sporting glory. This is an initiative we’re honored to have been awarded and we’ve already begun concepting designs and developing early prototypes. Rio 2016 serves as the single largest global grow the game initiative over the next five years. If we don’t capitalize on it at every opportunity, it will be a significant miss for the industry that could have lasting implications.

Q. What was reasoning behind the decision to relocate the Adams operation to TMaG headquarters? 

The decision to bring the Adams business to Carlsbad was made with the future of the brand in mind. First, we wanted to give the team and products the attention they deserved. The research and innovation coming from the Adams brand has never been better, and we saw this not only as an opportunity to dedicate additional resources to the brand to help tell the stories of the products. It also allows increased attention and focus on the product and marketing strategies to ensure there is a distinct point of difference between the two equipment brands in our portfolio. In doing this, we felt we would be not only more efficient, but more effective and impactful, allowing the two brands to live harmoniously under one roof as we move forward with the new era at our company.

Q: What is the future of golf retail?

I firmly believe that there is a tremendous opportunity in shaping the future of golf retail, especially if we become more efficient and progressive with our strategies. To successfully bring to life the next phase of golf retail and ensure our future initiatives are impactful, we need to do everything we can to ensure we have the products and services in the right places at the right times, making decisions that ladder back to the consumer and giving them unforgettable experiences to drive brand loyalty and engage consumers more than ever before. Finally, utilizing research and key data to make decisions based on what we know rather than what we think we know. Maximizing efficiency to make certain we become a brand that’s far more powerful than our newest product innovations.

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