Originally created 02/11/99

Dunlop Maxfli fortifies its market



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- If the golf ball wars are coming, as the industry predicts this year, then Dunlop Maxfli is loading up on ammo.

The Greenville-based company has retooled three of its balls and added another value-priced ball under its Dunlop brand to help counteract new competition from Nike and from golf club manufacturers Taylor Made and Callaway.

This spring, retailers will see a more durable Maxfli HT balata ball, the company's premium brand, and a revised Maxfli XS Tour, a midpremium rubber ball that now has tungsten in its core. The Dunlop Double Titanium is a revised version of the Dunlop Titanium that adds the metallic element to the cover and the core.

The new Dunlop Distance Precision promises much of the performance of the premium brands at a lower price.

The company "has positioned itself pretty well" with the new products, said Gena Yashuda, a Golf Week magazine writer who tracks the golf equipment industry. "They're keeping the same brand names, but the company has made technological improvements on several of their existing products."

Although the new products are expected to at least help Dunlop Maxfli hold its position, the company hopes to keep the momentum it has built in the past year on the strength of the Revolution, the fourth-best selling ball of 1998. That ball is made at the Dunlop Maxfli plant in Westminster.

The company does not release sales figures for individual lines, but Edward Hughes, vice president of marketing, says its overall sales increased 12 percent last year to nearly $90 million, mainly because of sales from the Revolution.

Dunlop Maxfli's market research puts the company in third place behind Titleist, with 43 percent of the market, and Spalding, maker of the Top Flight brands, with 23 percent through this past November. Dunlop Maxfli had 13 percent of the market. Each point represents about $7 million in sales.

To keep from being lost in the deluge of golf advertising this year, Dunlop Maxfli is increasing its advertising budget by 60 percent, Mr. Hughes said, although he would not say how much that is.

The company plans a new ad campaign featuring high-profile athletes from other sports who are recreational but serious golfers. Recent Super Bowl MVP John Elway, hockey star Mario Lemieux and Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino will be featured in print and television ads -- Dunlop Maxfli's first go at TV advertising.