Ray Cook, Black Rock Hit Airwaves with Golf Infomercials

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In an attempt to replicate the astonishing infomercial success of Adams Golf Inc., Austin, TX, several golf equipment manufacturers began launching infomercial campaigns during the last few weeks.

The company's sales rocketed to $50 million last year, largely because of its first infomercial, which generated enough awareness to bolster its presence in a retail environment dominated by much larger manufacturers. Adams' success has prompted several golf equipment companies to air new infomercials this year.

Ray Cook Golf Co., a maker of putters and wedges in San Diego, is new on the infomercial scene with its rollout of a program for the M1-Xi putter. The company intends to spend $2 million in media this year, but that figure may raise if its infomercial is "self-liquidating," a DRTV term for generating enough sales on TV to cover at least a portion of media costs.

While rising media costs have made it difficult to air a profitable infomercial, the company hopes to see a greater impact on retail sales.

"If we can cover most of our media cost, with our retail penetration, this thing should really be successful for us," said Bob Bauer, president and owner of Ray Cook. "After six weeks of airing on the Golf Channel, we're getting close to achieving that goal of breaking even on the media."

The infomercial cost about $300,000 to produce, said Ken Kerry, creative director of Script to Screen, the infomercial production company in Santa Ana, CA, that shot the program. The company also produced the infomercials for Adams Golf, Alien Sport and Taylor Made, but the Ray Cook program presented a new creative challenge in dramatizing the features a putter, perhaps the most wimpy club in any golf bag.

"A putter infomercial is the most difficult golf infomercial you can do, because it's not as dramatic as hitting a ball 300 yards off a tee," Kerry said. "Understanding that the climax of a golf tournament is that last putt of the day, we brought in a gallery to heighten the live drama of that big putt."

Meanwhile, another small golf equipment maker, Black Rock Golf Corp., Englewood, CO, began airing its fourth infomercial for its Bumble Bee driver as an attempt to restore profitability this year.

The company suffered a $2.7 million loss last year after its driver failed to get approval from the United States Golf Association, the rulemaking body that reviews new equipment. The association reversed that decision last summer, but not in time to restore the company's sales momentum.

"We were dealt a kind of cruel blow, but we're looking at making a comeback," said Jackson D. Rule Jr., president, CEO and chairman of Black Rock. "We have a $2 million media budget $2 million and we'll run our infomercial through the end of the year." Its infomercial was produced by Opfer Communications Inc., a commercial production company in Springfield, MO.

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