Equipment, News

BRIDGESTONE GOLF CAN SUPPORT CERTAIN ADVERTISING CLAIMS, FOLLOWING CHALLENGE BY ACUSHNET

NAD FINDS BRIDGESTONE GOLF CAN SUPPORT CERTAIN ADVERTISING CLAIMS, FOLLOWING CHALLENGE BY ACUSHNET, MAKER OF TITLEIST PRODUCTS

New York, New York – August 11,  2011 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has determined that Bridgestone, Inc., a maker of golf balls, can support the claim made in print, Internet, broadcast and Twitter advertising that Bridgestone is the “#1 ball fitter.”

The advertising at issue was challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Acushnet, Inc., the maker of Titleist brand golf balls, a competing product.

Acushnet challenged claims that included:

·         “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf.*” *“100,000 Live Launch Monitor Fittings.”
·         “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf”
·         “the leader in ball-fitting”
·         “KING of Ball Fitting” (made by a third party blog)
·         “#1BallFitter” (twitter feed name with hashtag)

(Full text of decision available to media, upon request.)

The parties to this case employ different methodologies in “fitting” golfers with the appropriate golf balls. Acushnet utilizes an On-Course Evaluation Process – a self-evaluation performed by the golfer, who is directed to compare golf balls first on partial swing iron shots hit into and around the green, followed by full swing iron shots, and finally hitting from the tee with the driver.

According to the challenger, most scoring opportunities are created by shots into the green (“short game”), as opposed to the shot from the tee with a driver (“long game”), because over the course of eighteen holes (the typical length of a golf game) golfers play more shots into the green than from the tee.  Thus, golfers will shoot lower scores with a golf ball that provides the optimal spin with short irons and wedges rather than with drivers.

The advertiser’s process requires the consumer to hit his current model golf ball into a net with his driver while the “Science Eye Live Launch Monitor” records the ball’s launch angle, spin rates, speed and distance.  Based on the ball flight characteristics, a Bridgestone technician will either confirm that the consumer is playing with the correct golf ball or recommend a Bridgestone ball that better suits the golfer’s game.   The consumer will then hit the recommended golf ball and the technician will compare and review the launch monitor data with the consumer.  The consumer is given a print out of the data and a two-ball pack of the recommended golf ball for an on-course validation.

The advertiser maintained that a fitting with just the driver will best reveal a mismatch between the player and his golf ball type, as the driver is the longest club in the bag and generates the highest head speed, thus, compressing the ball upon impact more than any other club.

In reaching its determination, NAD reviewed surveys submitted by both the advertiser and the challenger to assess the messages conveyed by the claims “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf*” *“100,000 Live Launch Monitor Fittings;” “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf,” “#1BallFitter” and “the leader in ball-fitting” claims.  NAD noted that the surveys did not test the exact claims in the context in which they appeared; instead, the surveys essentially queried consumers about their perceptions of which manufacturer is the leader in golf-ball fittings.

NAD also reviewed evidence that included a real-time database, maintained by Bridgestone, of all golfers it has fit since 2007, and their scores as recorded by the launch monitor. NAD determined that the evidence provided a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s claim that it is the “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf.*” *“100,000 Live Launch Monitor Fittings.”

NAD agreed with the challenger that “the leader,” and an unqualified “#1” and “#1ballfitter” claims were not puffery and could reasonably be understood to mean the most experienced/numerous clients fitted or most comprehensive golf-ball fitting.  While NAD noted that the challenger has been manufacturing golf balls longer than the advertiser, NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for this implied claim and noted that the challenger did not submit evidence that would rebut the advertiser’s claim.

Turning to the implied claim that the advertiser had the most comprehensive golf-ball fitting methodology, NAD noted that the challenger does not, in fact, “fit” the consumer to the ball for his or her short game.  Rather, the challenger leaves it to consumers to self-evaluate their performances on the course after taking a comprehensive survey rather than providing an in-person professional fitter on the green, or having any technical measurements taken of his or her performance with competing golf balls.

NAD determined that the advertiser had provided a reasonable basis for its claims that it was the “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf*” *“100,000 Live Launch Monitor Fittings;” “#1 Ball Fitter in Golf,” “#1ballfitter” and “the leader in ball-fitting.”

Finally, NAD found that the consumers would not be misled by information about Bridgestone that appeared at a third-party blog site.

Bridgestone Golf, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “appreciates the opportunity to participate in the NAD process, as well as the NAD’s careful consideration and comprehensive discussion of this matter.”