The show Driver vs Driver was Wilson Golf’s innovative way of bringing their new product to market. If you are unfamiliar, contestants competed to have their driver design become the newest Wilson driver. The show gives viewers an inside look at how a club gets made, from design to production. In the finale, Eric Sillies’ Triton driver design took home the inaugural title.
Wilson is pairing up with the Golf Channel again for the second season of Driver vs Driver. We recently got an opportunity to speak with Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke. He talked about Season 1 and gave us a preview of Season 2 Driver vs Driver. Here’s what he had to say:
GG: What was your favorite part of Season 1?
Tim Clarke: My favorite part of Season 1 was everything. We went down a trail that nobody has gone down and, quite honestly, in a business that’s been a little stagnant. I think the cool thing was just the professional learning experience and then the energy. Taking a big idea from ideation and development internally to the final product was really, really cool. The second part was how energizing the excitement of the contestants was. Watching the winner get life-changing prize money was pretty special. Any time you do something different, there is no road map. So it was truly reality TV in the purest form.
GG: Do you think it’s more important to design a club for a professional or for an amateur? Whose influence is bigger?
TC: The answer is yes and yes. The hard part is the balancing of that. Clearly, we had our tour staff involved in it and there will be definitely more tour involvement next time. There’s no doubt that when you have the tour staff involved there’s a lot more look shaping that’s harder to measure. What we try to do, in the design process, is to have parameters around what would be the ideal driver for the consumer to have. It was about how long can you hit it and how straight can you hit it.
So, there is that balance. I would say that in Season 1, to be very transparent, we built it more trying to keep the market more open for everybody, keeping the amateur in mind. I think what we’ll see in Season 2 is probably more appearance influence on the shape and the way the club sits from our tour staff and the better players that we work with.
GG: How many entries did you get for Season 1?
TC: We had 350 entries in Season 1 and based on the current clip, in Season 2, it’s going to be a lot more. I think we may push 2000 at the rate that they’re starting to roll in.
GG: In the designing of Season 1, did you see a lot of the contestants looking into shaft options to get their design to perform better?
TC: Their project was around the head design. We did shaft testing as we moved through the process, as things got prototyped. We [mainly] did shaft testing with the final three [contestants]. And then, at that point, we looked at the shaft twofold. Number one, what was performing well? The second was looking at a shaft that had some pretty strong credibility on tour.
GG: How close was the Pivot to winning?
TC: It was so close. Both drivers were one and two all the way through. At the 11th hour, before the final call was made, there was a lot of discussions.
I would say that up until the final three weeks, Pivot had some advantages in it but it had issues. Number one was in the design, that [sole] plate had some durability concerns. It was a titanium plate that had a center screw that allowed it to move six weights around. We had it to a point where it was passing durability [tests], but over the impact of, I believe 2000 times, we were seeing some bending of it. Over that many impacts, it was starting to cause a feel or setup issue.
The big thing that won for the Triton was the adjustability was far beyond the Pivot. The weight adjustments were in the most extreme locations ever done in golf.
We did a statistical area of accuracy test on the clubs, which is the nine-point impact test. Measuring off Iron Byron, we hit center, towards the toe, towards the heel, high center, high toe, high heel, and low center, low toe, low heel. The dispersion and accuracy of Triton was 38% better than Pivot.
GG: What are you looking forward to in Season 2?
TC: We’re looking forward to modifying the show. I think what you’ll see this time around is much more of our tour staff interaction in the process, you’ll see more field testing, and you’ll probably see the presentations cut down. We’re going to limit that to maybe, one episode with a lot of cuts. You’ll see more contests, where players do mini contests and win some things and move on. I think you’ll also see more prototyping. That’s really going to get the consumer excited and give them more time with the final driver that’s going to be coming to market, to understand the performance characteristics, and why this driver was better.
GG: Are there going to be new judges this season?
TC: Yeah, we have made the decision to go with a new slate, just to keep it fresh. We’ve got a list of names but we’ve got no commitments yet. Right now, the word is that I will be the one judge that stays on, even though I am more than happy to let them find somebody else. We’re looking for somebody with a very knowledgeable equipment background. We’re also looking at another name, whether that be athletics or TV personality or sports anchor. So we’ve got a huge list there.
GG: Do you think more companies are going to follow your lead in creating clubs this way?
TC: I can tell you that we know for a fact that people have inquired. Do I think this model has legs? I think it’s interesting. You have the opportunity to present your brand in a unique way. It’s very forward thinking. All brands, other than maybe the top 2 in spending, are going to have to find ways to get their story out.
I think there’s got to be a new way to go to market and I think this is the most innovative way that’s been put out there so far. And now I think people will start rallying around this concept, whether it’s a webisode or whatever they decide to do. I think you’ll be seeing much more of it.
GG: Do you see any plans to expand the series beyond drivers?
TC: There was a long discussion on what Season 2 should be. For our brand, iron versus iron would be a great show, with our heritage of 61 major championships in the iron category, more majors than anyone else. We think that would be a real special piece. On a smaller scale, you could do wedges or putters. We feel like golf balls would be very challenging. You can’t see anything. It’s all really high tech formulation, which is hard to articulate on a TV show.
We thought about and had some conversations on taking that off year [that we don’t do drivers] and do more of a mini contest with wedges or putters. We wouldn’t have as much development required because people could actually bring us the finished product.
GG: How has the show transformed your business?
TC: It’s been an adventure, it’s been fun. I’m proud to be at Wilson. I’m proud of what the Wilson Golf team, as a group, has accomplished because it’s really been no one person that’s been able to do this. The team that I have working with me has been unbelievable. Doug Thiel, who is our VP of Marketing for golf, is amazing. He’s a very creative guy and just to be able to have that type of an asset, making sure our brand was represented properly at all the shoots. Our innovation team, a number of hours they put into this project has been incredible. Our sales team, executionally, getting this driver to more doors than we’ve had a driver in since I’ve been in this position.
I’ll put our team’s resume up against anybody in the business as far as being forward thinking. And my view is that we just got to keep pushing on it.
GG: Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule, Tim! We look forward to watching Season 2 of Driver vs Driver!
TC: Thank you!