Shortly after being sued by a nonprofit consumer action group for unfair business practices, Nike admitted the golf ball Tiger Woods uses on the links is not the same one he endorses for the company.
Woods endorses the Nike Tour Accuracy golf balls in print and TV ads. But Mike Kelly, marketing director of Nike Golf, admitted Tuesday the world’s No. 1 player uses a custom-made ball with a harder inner and outer core that produces drives of 300 yards or more. That ball is not available to everyday duffers.
Nike’s admission came after the company was sued in federal court in San Francisco. The group Public Remedies filed the suit on Tuesday claiming, in essence, that Nike has dropped the ball on truth in advertising.
The group accuses Nike of unfair business practices by misleading the public into believing the Nike ball they’re buying is the same one Woods uses. Woods, who used to endorse Titleist balls, has won three straight majors this year.
The Nike Tour Accuracy balls can cost $4 or more each, and the nonprofit group wants Nike to return money to the public.
Kelly contends slight equipment changes for a pro are common in the industry. He calls them minor specification changes — not just to balls, but to irons and putters, as well. However, other golf companies say they sell the same products their endorsing players use.
Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, didn’t return a call requesting comment.
Making the Switch
After using and endorsing Titleist balls since turning professional in 1996, Woods this year ended that endorsement deal to instead become a pitchman for Nike’s Tour Accuracy balls. He has used the Nike ball since May and formally made the equipment switch two weeks before the U.S. Open in June.
Nike executives said in July that sales of Nike’s golf ball jumped immediately after Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots. Woods went on to win the British Open in July and the PGA Championship last weekend.
Woods signed with Nike immediately after turning pro, agreeing to a five-year deal worth $40 million. He is reportedly negotiating a new deal with Nike worth an estimated $100 million.
ABC’s Steffan Tubbs and The Associated Press contributed to this report.