Golf

Timberlake: singer, actor ... marketer?

Justin Timberlake (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Callaway Golf welcomes Justin Timberlake to its team.
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Justin Timberlake has proved he can act as well as sing. Now Callaway Golf Co. is about to discover whether he has a flair for advertising, too.

Timberlake, appointed in December as Callaway's creative director, helped craft a new marketing campaign for the golf-equipment maker that tees off this weekend. Timed to coincide with the Farmers Insurance Open, a PGA Tour tournament that begins this week, Callaway is hoping the campaign will get it out of the rough it has been in since the 2008 recession.

The marketing effort features golf pros such as Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorenstam using Callaway products to perform jaw-dropping golf feats on the Las Vegas Strip. One TV ad shows golfer Alvaro Quiros on a floating platform on the strip, hitting a golf ball 310 yards over the Bellagio fountain.

In another, several golfers including Sorenstam hit balls from rooftop to rooftop along the strip. Helicopters fill in for golf carts.

"We wanted to make a statement that was more rock 'n' roll," said Timberlake, who has been a paid endorser for Callaway for several years but is not in any of the new ads. Timberlake worked with Factory Design Labs, a Denver ad agency that began creating the new pitch in April 2011.

A surge of young players has lately been getting attention on the PGA Tour, such as last year's US Open winner, Rory McIlroy, who was 22 years old at the time. Callaway — whose average customer is about 55 years old — is hoping the ads will help it take advantage of that "youth movement" and attract younger consumers.

"Being hip and contemporary has to be part of the marketing plan" in order to attract new and younger golfers to the brand, says Jeff Colton, Callaway's senior vice president of global brand and product.

Callaway, based in Carlsbad, Calif., reported losses in both 2009 and 2010 as well as for the first nine months of last year. It reports fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, with losses expected to continue. It is losing market share to competitors such as Adidas AG's TaylorMade, according to Wall Street analysts.

But even as Callaway tries to attract younger golfers, it must be careful not to alienate its core older customers. Colton says he does not think that will be a problem. "Even aging golfers want to act younger," he adds.

Timberlake, meanwhile, hopes the new marketing will give the sport a "nice injection of kickassery."

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