Tano Goya of Argentina hands a club to his caddie as he walks up the first hole during the final … [+]
During a round at Wooden Sticks, a course outside of Toronto featuring replica holes from famous courses like St. Andrews and Carnoustie, Andrew McClelland landed on the perfect name for his golf apparel brand.
Standing in the tee box on No. 17, patterned after TPC Sawgrass’ island green, staring at the flag flapping in the wind 145 yards away, he kept oscillating back and forth between playing a pitching wedge or a softer struck 9-iron. He decided that maximum effort was required and announced to his playing partners he was going to go with a ‘Full Wedge.’
McClelland, 26, cut his teeth working at Pinnacle Transport, his family’s trucking business. Learning the logistics of less than truckload services and temperature-controlled transport fueled his entrepreneurial spirits and schooled him on business operations but by college he knew he wanted to get the wheels spinning on an entrepreneurial venture he could call his own.
While studying kinesiology in University he developed an ecommerce site to sell silicone wedding bands. That business proved short-lived but learning the ins and outs of Shopify would come in handy when he pivoted into golf attire.
Inspired by Austin-based Chubbies, the irreverent brand that brought short-shorts back to the fold, McClelland was confident he could create a niche with a golf band that mirrored their carefree vibe and target market of younger customers looking to stand out from the crowd—think a golf polo print that dares to pair pink hibiscus with roaring jaguars. He began sourcing fabric suppliers, testing out poly-spandex blends and experimenting with fits before finding a graphic designer in Morocco on Fiverr to help realize his vision.
To raise the seed capital to finance his first run of inventory, 300 polo shirts, he cashed in a single bitcoin back when the OG cryptocurrency was trading at just $5,000. While he made his fair share of operational shanks in the early going, three and a half years later, he now has over 60 designs, a men’s and women’s line and presides over a team of six.
“There were a couple years there, when bitcoin was skyrocketing, that the investment decision wasn’t looking too good but thankfully it has paid off pretty well,” McClelland says.
Off the tee, well before they were landing wholesale accounts, Full Wedge’s marketing strategy consisted of scrolling through hundreds of golf pages on social media and diligently messaging discount codes to potential customers. That grind created a trickle of sales that would eventually fund the nascent company’s advertising budget.
A big break occurred ahead of the start of the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season. Tano Goya’s caddie reached out to McClelland expressing that he dug Full Wedge’s look. McClelland happily outfitted the Argentine golfer and his caddie with Full Wedge gear but did not offer the duo any monetary incentives to promote the brand. Later in the season when Goya, who has since graduated to the PGA Tour, began creeping up the leaderboard, they ironed out new terms.
A sampling of Full Wedge Golf’s Women’s line which features the same patterns as the Men’s line.
Ad Spend Pivot
As the cost to reach potential customers on Facebook and Instagram has increased in the past couple years, McClelland has been reducing spend on those platforms in favor of TikTok.
“Adding key ambassadors with smaller, more engaged social followings has been an inexpensive way to drive traffic and build loyalty to our brand,” McClelland says.
Full Wedge still runs ads on Facebook and Instagram but says it is not as profitable as it used to be and they have ratcheted down their spend significantly on those platforms to around just $150-$300 a day. Leveraging TikTok’s creator marketplace to promote product has become the focus of Full Wedge’s customer acquisition strategy.
“The TikTok algorithm will allow any video to blow-up and go viral and a simple iPhone video has the opportunity to reach 1000s of potential customers. User generated content will allow us to continue to build our brand and community,” McClelland says, adding that he strongly believes TikTok is the future of advertising.
While TikTok’s rapid ascent and the mounting competition it poses to Meta is a widely known story, some emerging brands like Southwestern themed golf and outdoor apparel brand Raised by Coyotes have been more reticent in realigning their digital spend.
“While you can get a much better CPM right now with TikTok, there is still a lot of growth that needs to happen on the platform before it becomes a real competitor to Instagram/Facebook in terms of direct purchases from ads,” Raised by Coyotes founder Orlando Rios explains.
Rios, who has worked in the digital marketing space for over 10 years and has scaled multiple brands using Facebook ads, has positioned 20% of RBC’s ad spend towards TikTok. One drawback of running creative campaigns on the platform he cites is their short shelf life when compared with legacy social media players.
“You can see good performance initially, but very quickly it will sputter out. While TikTok is the shiny object, it still has a long way to go to get to the stability of Facebook and Instagram where you can still run campaigns and creative for longer periods of time and see instant returns,” Rios says.
But for Full Wedge, as long as short form content such as unboxing videos continues to resonate with their audience, McClelland will push the pedal to the metal on their TikTok marketing strategy. Currently 60% of Full Wedge’s revenue comes from direct-to-consumer purchases with 75 green grass accounts making up the remainder of sales. They are pacing to hit $500,000 in topline revenue by year end, a figure McClelland predicts they’ll double up on in 2023 driven primarily by new retail accounts coming online. Full Wedge will also be a first-time exhibitor at the upcoming PGA Merchandise Show in January.
The company invested in a 10×20 foot booth and plan to serve drinks, and blast music to create a festive vibe to showcase their wares. McClelland views the decision to put their shingle down at the golf world’s annual trade show as another step toward cementing industry credibility for the brands and he intends to make the most of the opportunity.
“It is quite a big investment and our goal is to gain 30 accounts,” he says. You can be sure of one thing, while growing his brand McClelland will keep attacking his goals the same way he targets flagsticks, head-on and never laying up.