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Tiger Woods, TaylorMade officially launch Sun Day Red. Could a TaylorMade IPO be far behind?

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – The worst-kept secret in golf was officially unveiled – Tiger Woods and TaylorMade have partnered to launch a new premium active-lifestyle apparel and footwear brand.

“We’re going to sunrise a brand,” said TaylorMade CEO David Abeles at a launch party on Monday evening, announcing an extended partnership with Tiger to launch Sun Day Red as a standalone business.

Tiger ended his 27-year relationship with Nike at the end of 2023. On Thursday, he is scheduled to tee it up at the Genesis Invitational wearing Sun Day Red.

“It’s the right time in my life,” Tiger said. “It’s transitional. I’m not a kid anymore. I want to have a brand I’m proud of going forward.”

Given his existing relationship with TaylorMade and its investment last year in PopStroke, a mini-golf entertainment and dining venue owned in part by Tiger, it’s a natural progression for TaylorMade and Tiger to get further into bed together. It’s unclear how much of a stake, if any, Tiger has in the new brand but he’s more than just an endorser.

“Let me be very clear, what we’re doing with Tiger, this is no endorsement,” Abeles said. “This is a full-blown, unequivocal partnership.”

Asked after his presentation to elaborate on Tiger’s stake in the new standalone brand, Abeles said, “We don’t disclose economic provisions within how we put things together but we are intimate partners. We are partners in every sense of the word.”

Pressed further, he would only add, “We are great partners.”

Casey Alexander, senior vice president for Compass Point Research and Trading and the longest-tenured golf analyst on Wall Street, sees another reason why TaylorMade would be motivated to create more growth outlets.

“I don’t know if TaylorMade is going to do an IPO this year, next year or at all but if they were going to this would be an association that would make sense to create some juice around it if and when they were going to do a deal,” he said.

Tiger’s use of Nike clubs and balls failed to make its equipment an authentic brand with golfers and it eventually opted to exit the golf equipment business in 2016. But there’s no denying that Tiger elevated Nike to the premiere golf apparel brand during his prime. What will that mean for Sun Day Red?

“He’s a different guy now,” Alexander said. “His game is in a different place and his life is in a different place so we’ll see whether or not he can still move the needle on the apparel side.”

Sun Day Red will begin selling apparel to men on May 1 as a digitally native company initially via Sundayred.com, which has already gone live. Over time, Sun Day Red will expand its availability in key markets outside of North America, at retail, and broaden its product offering to include footwear, women and kids’ lines. Abeles said footwear will lag behind with a target of early 2025. Asked when Tiger will begin wearing the brand’s shoes, he said, “We are working on it right now. We fully anticipate him wearing it in spring or summer, if not sooner.”

Abeles, who started his third stint with TaylorMade in 2015, said that signing Woods to an equipment endorsement deal in 2016 was the first part of “the dream” to have the best player ever to play the game – his words – using the company’s clubs. The second part of “the dream” took shape at St. Andrews in 2021 over cold bagels and coffee with agent Mark Steinberg, who subtly intimated that Tiger might consider expanding his relationship with the company.

TaylorMade had been part of Adidas for 20 years before being sold in 2017 and becoming a privately-held vertical. They still have plenty of staff with experience in the footwear and apparel business.

“We have always had a perspective that at some point in time we’d approach adjacencies in our business and logical and rational adjacencies in our business are apparel and footwear,” Abeles said. “We have inherent knowledge of how to do it and we also believe that these markets, multi-billion-dollar market places, need a new brand, a fresh approach for apparel and golf and a fresh approach to apparel and lifestyle and the connection of the two.”

As a result, they created a separate vertical within the TaylorMade holding company, which is based in San Clemente, California, in Orange County, not the company’s longtime headquarters in Carlsbad, near San Diego. There is a separate leadership team that stands alone from TaylorMade.

“A lot of companies make the mistake of integrating brands into the big mothership and you lose your own identity. This brand will have its own identity when we launch it tonight and its own identity 20 years from now.”

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