Wilson’s Balls End Up in Sand Trap

Euro RSCG Tatham Partners had some fun advertising Wilson Sporting Goods’ “Jack” balls, designed for the Sunday duffer who just wants to “hit the snot out of the ball,” as chief creative officer Jim Schmidt put it when ads launched earlier this year.

A TV spot from the Chicago agency shows a golfer taking a powerful swing that knocks more than snot out of his Jack ball. His mighty swing sprays his partners with a brown substance. They stand muddied and appalled while he admires the length of his drive.

Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus’ West Palm Beach, Fla., company is not amused by Jack. A lawsuit Nicklaus Golf Equipment filed against Chicago-based Wilson asserts that anything to do with the name Jack and golf is automatically associated with the Golden Bear. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, demands that Wilson be restrained from publicly using the name “for a commercial or advertising purpose” without Nicklaus’ permission. It also wants all existing Jack balls (as well as ads, brochures and mailers) to be delivered to Nicklaus Golf to be destroyed.

Wilson had no direct comment on the suit, but a rep says, “It’s business as usual. Our advertising will continue.” Tatham group creative director Scott Maney also declined comment on the suit, but suggests Nicklaus doesn’t have a monopoly on his first name. ” ‘Jack’ has so many meanings,” he says. “You ‘jack’ the ball. You don’t know ‘jack.’ ”

Plus, he says, Wilson’s product, priced well below elite products like Titleist, couldn’t be more removed from the Nicklaus image. “He’s like the godfather of golf,” he says. “This is for the knucklehead.”