Bob, it's been more than three years now since Puma bought Cobra. How has the cat influenced the snake in that time?
In a number of ways. One of the biggest ones is that Puma has given us the muscle to compete in the golf space. Puma brought the resources to build the infrastructure and essentially the foundation for Cobra Puma Golf. Before, we had 12 sales reps in the US and now we have 45 with Cobra Puma Golf. We were able to build the company here from what was an acquired R&D team at Cobra of 25 people to around 150. I also think it's given us the chance to improve from a design perspective and it's really opened the floodgates for us thinking outside the box a little more. We can now take advantage of shared synergies.
You've a wide mix of players from the youthfulness of Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson to dare I say it, more senior players like The Shark and Jesper. I assume that generation gap was by design?
Sure. As we develop our business we're trying to make sure that we’ve got a spread of our talent that resonates with different consumer groups. We don’t want to be too young; we don’t want to alienate an older crowd. We try to be balanced and I think we've done that with the likes of Rickie, Lexi, Jonas [Blixt], Ian [Poulter], Blair O'Neal, we've recently added Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet, Will MacKenzie, and then as you say we've got Jesper and this week unveiled Greg Norman as an ambassador. You know, for us, it's not about an age as much as a mindset, we do have a youthful mindset, so whether you're Jesper at 49 or Greg at 58, everyone wants to be 10, 15 years younger.
How much do you rely on your flagship players Rickie and Ian to sell your products?
They're extremely important because ultimately our players are the face of the brand. We don't have the most money in the world to advertise, a lot of it comes through our players. We don't have the most players on Tour but we think we have the right ones who can cut through the clutter and make a difference.
Do you believe simplicity and making golf easy for the consumer is of major importance when launching clubs to retail?
For sure. We're all about Golf Made Easy. One of the differentiators at Cobra is to take the adjustability, or what we can personalisation, and make it really simple. With our new MyFly8 technology in the new Bio Cell driver, you just need to worry about loft adjustment in eight different loft settings, including three draw settings. All the numbers are right there in a little window on the hosel. Golf doesn't need to be confusing when it comes to equipment and we're making it simple, yet effective.
How important is proper fitting for golfers looking for new equipment?
It's very important. Our research is still showing that, post purchase, the adjustments aren’t happening that often. But MyFly adjustable loft technology has been a great asset for us. We can fit players better. Through MyFly and SmartPad, we have been able to keep things really simple.
Talking of the new Bio Cell family of clubs, you must be very excited given the recent Tour validation of the products?
Yeah we're super excited. Testing is coming out great. Bio Cell has probably been the easiest family of products to get into our Tour players' bags. That tells me something. Advertising has kicked off well and our message and challenge for players to 'Go Long'.
Any other plans for Cobra Puma that you can enlighten us on for 2014?
There will be a number of things. From Puma, there's a new lifestyle line of footwear with the new BIOFUSION spikeless mesh shoes that we unveiled this week. Lightweight products that translate to comfort, as well as a unique style. We think we do colour and style better than anyone else out there and I believe you'll see that this year. For Cobra, obviously the Bio Cell will prove to be a big hit for us but there's also a big push on the game improvement market with the new Baffler XL family. There are a lot of exciting things coming out this year and it's a big year for us.
Talking of the Baffler XL driver, how much of a success story was the 40-year anniversary of the historic name for you last year?
That was a fantastic story for us. Tom Crow, the founder of Cobra and father of the Baffler, is still active with the company. Baffler was his baby. Whenever he comes into town, he works with our R&D team, for sure. When I think about game enjoyment, it harkens back to that first club. Baffler was all about getting the ball out of trouble and up in the air. We thought it was a great name stuck in hybrids only. The new Baffler XL driver really is easy to get up in the air and it has the biggest face that we have. Baffler XL is really going to help golfers enjoy the game more. It's Golf Made Easy.
How do you turn an idea into a golf club or apparel, and what processes are involved from original idea to manufacture?
I think everything starts with solving challenges that consumers are facing, a consumer issue, and ultimately that becomes the brief. So we ask ourselves how do we solve that? Once we've got an idea, it's then in the hands of the product team. When we've got a prototype in the hands, we engage with our pros along the way from a testing perspective. Ultimately there's this crunch time where we go through the full production. It's one thing to make one of them but can you make several thousand of them? It seems like the process never stops until it's in the consumers' hands.
What's your general analysis of the golf industry right now?
I'd say it's challenging. Golf isn't growing, we're not doing a great job of pulling in new people to the sport. There's positive signs in the emerging markets in terms of where the game is going and the Olympics will be a big boost for that. I think it’s headed in a pretty good direction for the future because more and more people are starting to think a little bit more like us. When we starting using the F-word (fun) three years ago, nobody else was using it. Now lots of people are using it.
Finally, I understand you competed in the Humana Challenge last week in the pro-am format, how was that for you?
Yeah that was awesome. I had a great time. I love pro-ams and I've played them on a Wednesday but to be out there on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday alongside the Tour pros while they're in tournament conditions was different. I played with Jesper, Jonas and Rickie and my amateur partner was Holly Sanders which was great. I did okay.