Bad Birdie wants golfers to stop taking themselves so seriously and have more fun on and off the golf course … [+]
Courtesy of Bad Birdie
Jason Richardson expected 2020 to be an important year for Bad Birdie.
Launched in 2017 with $20,000 of his own money as a side hustle, the golf apparel brand known for its colorful polo shirts with unique patterns and designs has grown sales from $72,000 to $412,000 in 2018 and over $1 million in dollars the following year. Prior to 2020, Richardson was looking for credit to buy up more inventory to see if Bad Birdie could continue to grow at the pace it has been so far.
Then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic struck. The world stopped. Sales fell by 90%. Retailers canceled orders left and right.
“I was sitting on a bigger stock than I’ve ever been,” says Richardson.
But two months later, as sports and other activities were postponed, golf’s popularity as a safe and socially distanced outdoor activity began to increase; Even basketball hoops in New York City have been removed from public spaces to limit exposure and spread.
Sales of golf equipment in the U.S. boomed, topping $1 billion for the first time ever in the third quarter of 2020 as about 50 million more rounds were played that year amid the pandemic than in 2019, when 441 million rounds were played nationally .
Not only was Bad Birdie spurred by the massive growing interest in golf and its expansion as a more diverse and inclusive game and sport, Richardson’s appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank aired April 3 and resulted in a 2-1 draw.
The brand has grown its sales 10x in the last two years by growing its e-commerce business while expanding to more than 1,000 retail stores across the country, including Nordstrom, PGA Tour Superstore and Premium Pro- stores. Bad Birdie also opened its first retail store in Scottsdale, Arizona in November.
“(The pandemic) really helped drive our business and brought a lot more awareness to the game because everyone was stuck inside and like, ‘What am I going to do?’ Richardson says.
A more inclusive game
The resurgence of golf during the pandemic can be attributed to a number of factors. Aside from being a socially distanced activity, increased interest in golf entertainment venues like Topgolf and Drive Shack coupled with the industry that includes sports betting has resulted in a younger, more diverse audience.
The PGA Tour announced DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet and FanDuel as official bookmakers from July 28th to August 31st, 2020. Golf is DraftKings fourth most popular sport for daily fantasy, while its golf sportsbook handle has grown 10-fold year over year.
And while 18-34 year olds made up 25% of on-course golfers (24.1 million) in 2019, this age group comprised 40% of off-course golfers playing at golf entertainment venues, driving ranges and indoor golf simulators .
A game rooted in routine, rigid traditions and preconceived notions, which journalist and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has dubbed “crack cocaine for old whites,” evolves over time.
“I love the game for the fun and the community,” says Richardson. “So much golf in the industry was focused on keeping up the tradition and the stuffiness of what it was and nobody really jumped in to say, ‘Hey, wait a second.’
“We didn’t invent the idea that golf is the funniest thing to do with your buddies, we just embraced it and thought we could go ahead and build a brand around it, hopefully allowing people to play more freely.” feel inclusive and get out and be yourself.”
Bad Birdie uses its products to promote its brand and message: that golf should be fun and should be fun for everyone.
Bad Birdie teamed up with Michelob Ultra for a limited edition collection in October.
Courtesy of Bad Birdie
The company released a limited collection with Michelob Ultra in October and is collaborating with Waste Management for a limited collection at the Phoenix Open (February 10-13). Richardson says the event, known for its raucous 16th hole, is “like a sea of bad birdies running around”.
To connect with his growing fan base, Bad Birdie invests time and money in entertaining people on social media with fun stories about the game and the brand. Bad Birdie TV is her Instagram series focused on golf comedy and Breakfast Balls is a weekly blog/newsletter highlighting current golf events and culture. The Arizona-based company also expanded its relationship with its community by hosting the inaugural Condor Cup, an investment in local recreational golf leagues.
“We’re not necessarily selling a product, we’re selling a feeling and a community,” says Preston McFarland, Bad Birdie director of brand marketing. “It’s great that someone goes to our website and finds a Polo that jumps at them and represents them and their personality well, but chances are they saw something that made them say, ‘This is great. I want to be part of the Bad Birdie community.”
“So we’re opening the floodgates for people who haven’t played the game before, and in order to do that you need to make the space accessible and welcoming. That’s what we’re trying to do from a brand storytelling perspective – reaching people who may not have experienced the game. The transition from a golf polo brand to a golf lifestyle brand is very meaningful, especially for us this year.”
separation from the herd
Following Richardson’s appearance on Shark Tank, Bad Birdie compiled a list of about 40 imitation brands looking to capitalize on the show and the growing interest in golf.
In an industry dominated by legacy clothing brands like Nike, adidas and Under Armour, more niche golf brands are emerging including Malbon, Bogey Boys, Waggle Golf and Birds of Condor.
“Coming out with a golf brand today is like coming out with a skate brand in the ’90s,” says Richardson. “Everyone creates their own golf brand. People love golf and now it’s kind of the cool thing that people are getting into.”
Bad Birdie’s goal now is to continue to grow the relationship with its loyal customers while getting new ones to enjoy the game and the company they play with without taking themselves too seriously. Richardson says it’s all about asking, “What represents our Bad Birdie guy?” and what do they wear whether they’re on the course, at the gym, at home, or lounging with friends.
Bad Birdie have released their Muni Kits – a collection of sweatshirts and jogging pants – for more casual rounds or use off the course as they continue to expand into the golf lifestyle.
“The goal is that in a few years, you’ll be able to wear Bad Birdie from head to toe whether you’re on the golf course or not,” says Richardson. “Literally every situation we’ve got you covered in and it says something about who you are.”