MacGregor Golf on Comeback Trail With Howard, Merrell & Partners

Determined to start its second century with a return to prominence in the golfing industry, MacGregor Golf Co. last week placed its account at Howard, Merrell & Partners (HM&P) in Raleigh, N.C. The Albany, Ga.-based client has pledged to spend $10-15 million on advertising annually through the year 2002.
According to Competitive Media Reporting, MacGregor spent $1.5 million in 1996 and nearly $900,000 through July 1997. Earlier this year, however, it was acquired by an investor group that included affiliates of two British firms, Masters International and Apax Partners. After the sale, William Marsh became president and chief executive officer, and making the brand profitable was his top priority. To that end, he said last week, the company would beef up its ad budget.
“A large part of the progress we have made this year is freeing up the money to increase our ad spending,” he said. “It’s something [MacGregor] hasn’t been able to do in a while.”
This was the second time in the last year that the agency had talked to the client. The account was reviewed last year by MacGregor’s previous management.
“We had some telephone discussions with them last year and talked about their situation,” said Mike Gainey, agency senior vice president and business group director. “They were losing money, but realized they needed to be a player in the marketing arena. We felt they needed to get a handle on their brand and how they could leverage it, and that was going to take some time and some research. When they indicated they weren’t willing to do that, we walked away.”
After the sale earlier this year, MacGregor re-opened talks with the agency, revisiting the topics HM&P had pointed out last year. The agency was assigned the business without a formal review.
In addition to its lines of clubs, the firm also makes golf bags, balls, Gore-Tex outerwear and accessories. Part of its marketing strategy will be to strike endorsement deals with touring pros. While specifics of the agency’s plans for the account are under development, network TV will be a part of the mix.
“They have to be at that level to compete these days,” Gainey said. “We’re looking at everything we can do with the MacGregor brand.”