Cleveland signs Jamie Sadlowski: Does it Make Sense?

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Cleveland signs Jamie Sadlowski: Does it Make Sense?

In the world of tour golf signings, names like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler are always up for debate in terms of moving the needle. When a company announces the signing of Jamie Sadlowski, the first thing that comes to mind is “cool”, followed by “why?” by many golf fans. Both thoughts are serious and both have merit in the free agency month for new players sponsorships. Let’s examine this one a little bit more because it is one of the most intriguing and polarizing partnerships.

Sadlowski is best known for being the guy that crushes the cover off the ball. The Canadian athlete who won the World Long Drive Junior Championships in 2005 and 2006 and won the adult version of the competition back to back in 2008 and 2009. The staggering part of this is, unlike most of the competitors at that time, he is under 6′ tall and weighed less than 175 lbs. The winning drive in 2008 came in at a whopping 418 yards, which he topped with 434 yards in an earlier round.

Fast forward to 2016, when he made the formal announcement that he would quit long drive competitions in order to focus on a career playing professional golf. Early on, he had moderate success making cuts on the Tour and winning a qualifier for the US Open by shooting -9. In the Indonesian Masters he shot -4 under and finished in the top 50, but the real story was during the event, he hit a drive of 368 yards and set a record there for the highest ball speed at just under 195 mph.

With sponsors exemptions being what they are, Sadlowski has the ability to play in a handful of events in 2018 and show off his unique abilities on the tee box. Where he has to make up ground is with his wedge play and just this week it was announced that he signed on to be a brand ambassador for Cleveland Golf. At first glance the thought of “wedge company with a guy that has struggled with his short game” might seem like an odd pairing, but keep reading as this article might change your mind.

Let’s first examine the aspect of tour staff and players that move the needle in golf with the mention of their name. Odds are, there are less than 10 of them that make you say “Yup, they move the needle”.

Dustin Johnson
Rickie Fowler
Tiger Woods
Rory McIlroy
Jordan Spieth
Phil Mickelson
Jason Day Maybe
Justin Thomas Maybe
Jon Rahm Maybe in the future
Hideki Matsuyama Maybe, but not in the US yet

Looking at that list, how many players outside of that list do you immediately think of and what is in their bag? So the question then becomes, is it about the player or is it about the quantity mixed with the quality? The number of eyeballs that make someone possibly take notice, even for a minute or two during a tournament or commercial, is rather small. Moving from the list or the OWGR for a second, you also have another type of signing and that is the brand ambassador. It could be argued that was Tiger Woods the last couple of years, but passed that, you have the David Feherty type of signings where they are a public figure that gets noticed and still has a voice in the game. Whether that be of the new digital world like Paige Spiranic and her signing with PXG or Jim Nantz with Titleist.

The interesting part here is that Jamie Sadlowski falls somewhere in between the two. He is an ambassador that some will really pay attention to as the guy trying to to live his dream of playing on the PGA Tour as a ‘real golfer’ first, and murderer of the golf ball second. One thing cannot be disputed though, when Jamie hits a golf ball, people pay attention, and in most cases stop whatever they are doing to see what is going on. The sound, the impact, the flight…it is one half golf drive and the other half glass shattering entrance music at a WWE event. That singular thing, driving the golf ball by a player like Sadlowski, moves the needle. It just so happens, that on the surface, it appears as though he can actually play the game at a very high level in other areas too.

Going back to the original question, which is does this signing make sense for a company, the answer is unequivocally, yes. The investment should not be one of a major champion just yet, but rather investing in the knowledge that eyeballs will still be on him and that’s one of the main goals of a signing. The difference being that the marketing has to be more creative, because at least right now, you are not going to see Jamie Sadlowski in the final pairing at Augusta National or most other places, because he is not there yet. Will he get there? Nobody knows the answer to that, but the betting line would be rather short.

Using a staff member from a few of the larger companies as an example, what would make more sense? Signing the likes of a Kevin Na, James Hahn, Martin Kaymer, etc to add to a tour staff filled with those athletes already, or signing a brand ambassador that might make people stop in their tracks once or twice? If nothing happens from the signing, they are right back where they started, but if he makes his move and plays in a few events, the eyeballs will be there with success or not, because he is a story.

Right now, few golfers are going into their local stores and testing the new Cleveland Launcher HB driver, which is a shame based on our testing of a very solid offering. If Jamie Sadlowski and the piercing sound he will get that translates into ridiculous flights can change a few minds, it is a huge win for a company looking for that identity in metal woods. The alternative is grabbing a small number of tour staff to increase their overall totals now, and honestly, I don’t see how that makes the same splash. Does Hideki Matsuyama suddenly putting it in play make people take notice? Maybe. Does fill in the blank top 100 tour player putting something in the bag make someone take notice, or is it more the special moments and the sum of the parts? I would argue that Jamie Sadlowski will do more for the Cleveland brand image than that of their own staff members like JB Holmes and Keegan Bradley. There is a Happy Gilmore story in there somewhere that is waiting to come out and if it does (and it’s a big if) this becomes a story of the year kind of idea. If it doesn’t, the investment is not an astronomical one and you still have the guy competing on some of the larger stages that hits it further than anybody else.

If you have made it this far, then the question is now posed to you, the reader, does this signing make sense? Sound off below in the comments section or on the THP Forum.

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Josh Babbitt

Josh is the Publisher of The Hackers Paradise and co-founder of THP Media with his wife Morgan Babbitt. Together they share a passion for golf, and they travel the country in the THP Tour Van bringing their love and knowledge of the game to golfers everywhere.

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  • really enjoyed that Josh. I was on the fence here, but agree with the thought about how this is different than signing a few top 100 guys. Curious to see how this plays out.

  • I’d say it makes as much sense as any signing of someone that’s not a top 10 player. If brands are looking to get people looking at their equipment there are better ways than signing a huge stable of players and hoping they get air time. A brand ambassador that knows how to use social media and that makes content that gets seen by not internet golfers, or by not golfers seems like a better investment than a top 50 player that gets 20 minutes of tv time across 4 days of a tournament.

  • I was on the fence yesterday in the discussion, but i tend to agree here on alternatives. The question eventually becomes is are any of the signings worth the dollars spent. I guess the answer is found in looking at the companies that do not have a presence.

  • Does that last picture say what I think it says. WOOOOOOOO!

  • I like it, plain and simple. It’s a small investment that has a TON of upside.

  • Excellent article, at first I though Heck No! Who is he?

    After reading this I think it’s possibly a good move, low investment for a return that could be pretty good in the Metal woods segment for Cleveland, I hope it works out, it would be a feel good story

  • Josh, enjoyed the write-up!! I think it makes sense as Cleveland golf seems to struggle in golf equipment sales except wedges. Anything that can get people to think of Cleveland golf clubs, other than wedges, is a positive step for the company. Although his name recognition is as a long ball hitter and not a golfer it still makes people notice.

  • Does it makes sense? Initially I didn’t understand it really but after reading your article you make a great argument why it does makes sense. Assuming it didn’t cost them a ton of money I really don’t see how it could hurt, in fact it could only help.

  • This is a low risk, high reward signing. He has shown talent to play respectably on the pro stage, but still has a long way to go before he’s leading on the back nine of a PGA Tour event. Cleveland/Srixon at the very least signed a recognizable brand ambassador & on the higher end singed a player with untapped potential that can create a buzz for the brand that none of the other staffers can or have to date.

    I’m looking forward to see how the marketing team moves forward with him.

  • I don’t see how a guy that is not on tv helps them. The argument above is a good one and a strong one, but i said the same thing about paige spiranic, i just don’t get it.

  • I think it’s a decent signing if used correctly.
    I wonder what we should use to ultimately judge this signing in a years time…sales of Launcher drivers?

  • ArmyGolf,
    That is the million dollar question. I guess it would be exposure and however that is viewed. Ultimately sales is the goal for any company, but at the same time, the growth has to start with exposure. And there are all different kinds, not just on Sunday on the back 9 or in a tournament field at all.

  • While I respect their move and thought process, I’m in the lonely camp that thinks this a questionable signing. I think it brings immediate excitement to golf fans but the longer he is without status the less this will mean. I mean I don’t expect that Jamie can’t swing any driver hard and produce ungodly ball speed.

    I hope he makes the tour and becomes one the main stays on tour. I’ll be looking for him on the leader boards.

  • Good stuff JB and I like the thought process here. As I was reading I kept thinking about Wesley Bryan and how he was with Callaway during all his trick shot days and then when he ultimately made it to the PGA. Could this be another Wesley story in the making….I would like to see it!

  • Freddie Kong,
    I think viewing this as a PGA Tour sponsorship is what is the difference. He is not a PGA Tour staffer, but a brand ambassador, as outlined in the piece. Similar to that of other brands bringing in the same thing.

  • I think it makes complete sense. In the Dean and Deluca, they spent as much time televising and talking about Jamie swinging a club as they did on the leaders of the tournament. If Jamie happens to put together a few good tournaments and gets coverage, It’s a win for Cleveland. Worst case scenario, there will be some form of discussion about him and his ability to tear the cover off a ball in any event he plays in. I think it’s an excellent move by Cleveland.

  • Enjoyed the article JB! As you stated “the marketing has to be more creative” … this was just what I was thinking yesterday but couldn’t put it into words as eloquently as you. HA!
    But it makes sense. How more creative can you get to help sell drivers? Just a signing of him to your brand doesn’t get attention on it’s own. Do you start spending additional cash on inventive commercials to get the word out of “who” he is? Once he becomes a more known player & people stop saying “who is this guy?” then he might move the needle for Cleveland.
    I hope he does well … both for Cleveland & for golf.

  • I really like the plan from Jamie’s perspective. Simple, to the point. I’m all in for driven people like him who will forego the comfortable to go after their biggest dreams and goals. He’s a winner already, and not just professionally,
    I’d love to see him have success on the Tour in the future.
    Good move for Cleveland too There are a lot ways to market someone like Jamie. Very low risk for them.

  • Great article JB! If he hits the ball anywhere near the numbers provided he will certainly develop a cult following.

  • Great read, yeah I think it makes sense. I mean why not? I’m sure Cleveland didn’t have to break the bank to sign him so the upside is tremendous with what could potentially happen. Kind of reminds me of when Under Armour signed Spieth in a way, they got him early and “cheap” and has since absolutely blown up along with him. Could this be the same? I don’t know, not saying that for sure, but why not try?!? I like the signing. Good luck to Jamie and Cleveland!

  • What a great read!

    I have to admit that I saw Cleveland and Sadlowski and thought to myself, that’s a good pairing. The way I see it, Sadlowski can crush the ball with just about any driver on the market today, so there’s a plus for them in the long game right there – but where Cleveland will REALLY benefit is that Sadlowski has nowhere to go but up in his short game stats.

    Imagine if he goes from a few Sponsor exemptions to a full time gig to qualifying for a tour card next season? Cleveland would be able to say they have the most improved short game player on the planet – and it’s all due to the ______ Wedges that he plays.

    I like the approach of signing a few tour players over one big name. Look at how Wilson has done it. Streelman, Steele and Barnes on the PGA Tour… Merrit and Paddy on the Euro Tour… All of them winning a bit and getting some TV time – and their clubs are getting better and better every year. It’s a great way to market and I think more and more companies will try and get anyone on board that will show their bag on TV on the weekend. It’s the best advertising you can get.

  • It makes perfect sense. Looking at it from the other perspective…..Here is a guy who is known for the long ball, and isn’t very efficient in the short game… He starts getting up and down to save par or a chip in bird with Cleveland wedges, bang money!!!!. Investment well spent by Cleveland golf

  • Really good read. I absolutely think this is a great signing for cleveland. Presumably a low financial risk with major upside. And I really think this will help push the launcher woods series. If he somehow wins a PGA tour event this year with a Cleveland Launcher driver, no doubt will people take notice, especially considering his most remarkable stat each and every week will (most likely) be his driving distance.

  • This absolutely makes sense for all the reasons stated in the original article. It’s low risk/high reward type of signing. I think the thing that makes the Sadlowski signing intriguing and unique isn’t even necessarily his game but his story. Companies sell a game all day. Selling his story (if he succeeds) along with your equipment is a little bit different on the marketing angle (especially is he has significant improvements to his short game).

  • I think it is a great signing.

    Hopefully Jamie finds success on the tour, and Cleveland gains a lot of exposure from his using their gear.

  • Nice job on the article JB.

    I think it is a good signing for Cleveland. I believe a lot of minimize the work, technique and science that goes into the long drive. If Jamie applies the same work ethic to other parts of the game, gets a break here and there, he could end up doing OK. Cleveland certainly has some short game gurus on staff that could help. He has already shown he does have some game but the line between success and failure is very fine on tour. I always like an underdog and hope he makes the most of his opportunities. That in turn would be very good for Cleveland.

  • Great write up Josh.

    I agree with your sentiment that he brings more people to the Launcher brand. Great signing for Cleveland/Srixon. I hope he can get where he wants to go.

  • I agree with this thought process. The love the signing and would LOVE to watch him in person!

  • For Cleveland this is risk v potential reward, they risk very little for someone like Jamie (In relation to PGA Tour stars) and if he Jamie plays well and makes it they stand to make a killing.

    I imagine every manufacturer offered him a deal he would be happy with

  • This is an interesting signing. I can see him generating enough interest for it to be useful for Cleveland. However, I wonder if people will just assume the equipment he plays is different, and thus dismiss any correlation to his driving and Cleveland’s drivers.

    I am curious how his short game does with the switch. I think if he has some success it could be really good for Cleveland over all.

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