The Carlsbad, CA company chose the agency as part of a growth strategy to create a more unified identity as it vies for share against the likes of Nike Golf, Adidas' Taylor Made, and Fortune Brand's Titleist.
The company says it is seeking a "big brand idea" to help consumers emotionally connect with the Callaway Golf brand. Bill Knees, the company's SVP/marketing, concedes the marketing focus has been all about technology--which doesn't create a lot of brand identity. "The Callaway Golf brand is already positioned as the technology leader in terms of equipment," he said in a release.
Indeed, the technology focus has taken on dramatic elements of a cold-war spy film. Callaway last year sued Nike in an effort to stop the Portland, OR sportsgear giant from hiring former Callaway executive Robert L. Arluna as head of marketing because--as a movie detective might have put it--he knew too much. Arluna had been head of Callaway's Odyssey line of putters, and was privy to tech secrets.
"The golf-products industry has become a bit of an arms race with the differences becoming narrower and narrower," says Courtney Buechert, President of Eleven. He says the agency's strategy for Callaway Golf will be to inject some emotion and brand identity into product-centered messages. "The recognition is that Callaway has something different: It's always about the liberation of players."
He also sees a parallel in terms of brand equity between Callaway Golf and Eleven's biggest client, Apple. "There are similarities in terms of how their cultures and products have been driven by a singular perspective of the founding individuals (Steve Jobs and Ely Callaway). The same can't be said for Callaway's competitors. So our assessment of them was that we don't have to invent an emotional brand for them, just bring it into the mix."
Callaway Golf is also in the midst of a media agency review including incumbent NY-based KSL Media.
"Their whole way of bringing products to market will step up, and we are one ingredient of a big change at Callaway," says Buechert. "You will see something dramatic, and our work will be one of many new things." He says new creative will begin before the year is over, with most of the activity in January to June.
He says the new creative direction will target a younger generation: "It will be young, progressive and urgent, not nostalgic or historic. Still," he adds, "We will have to give today's articulation of what has always been true about the company. In a marketing-saturated world people are sifting based on authenticity and purpose."