In my professional cycling career, I was fortunate to become a sponsored Oakley athlete, which gave a first-hand look at the organization, products and brand. When it was time for the next chapter, I transitioned into a corporate role at Oakley because of my passion to help athletes perform at their highest level no matter the sport. Everyday I have the opportunity to educate professional athletes, aspiring athletes and consumers on Oakley lens technology including Prizm Golf – it’s truly my dream job!
My obsession with equipment and how it can maximize performance began while watching Greg LeMond, the pioneering American road-racing cyclist. As a fellow cyclist, I admired how he constantly pushed the boundaries of equipment, materials and aerodynamics.
MATT WARD: What separates Oakley from your competitors?
DECLAN LONERGAN: At Oakley we believe everything can and will be made better. Our golf collection and product is a testament to the brand’s passion to deliver performance–driven products and game–changing innovation through research, development and more.
MW: How do men and women differ in terms of how they approach selecting eyewear?
DL: We don’t see a huge difference. Both men and women – athletes and consumers – expect a performance piece that combines innovation and technology for optimized views, comfort and results. In order to ensure the lens fits comfortably for women, we offer the option of a smaller lens size in our Prizm Golf collection.
MW: What’s the breakdown percentage wise of sales via green grass shops, big box retail and online?
DL: Our focus is to create an authentic and inspiring experience no matter if our customers are shopping at an Oakley store, online at Oakley.com or in a green grass shop. Oakley golf products are sold in 2,500 wholesale locations across the US and we are fortunate to have strong relationships with both big and small retailers.
MW: Golf as a sport presents some unique challenges for eyewear – what are they?
DL: Eyewear, vision and attention to detail are pivotal to golf success, making eyewear key to performance. The Oakley team has considered a few golf variables while developing Oakley Prizm lens technology. Golfers need toclearly spot the transitions betweenthe fairway, fringe and rough so they can read their lie accordingly. Different courses have different shades of green, and Prizm technology needs to work for all courses. Our Prizm Golf lens also highlight the health and condition of the grass, which in turn would help you adapt to playing around or through unhealthy grass. Throughout the day and weekend, the sun and weather is ever changing and Prizm lenses need to constantly protect eyes and enhance vision, no matter the conditions. Most players are exposed to the sun and elements for hours at a time. Oakley eyewear is both equipment and protection for your eyes.
MW: How has Oakley dealt with those challenges?
DL: Oakley developed Prizm, a revolutionary lens technology to dramatically enhance contrast and visibility over a wide range of light conditions. Oakley’s Prizm Golf technology fine-tunes vision specifically for golf environments and enhances contrast drastically. Prizm Golf lenses are also designed with our patented Plutonite lenses that optically correct at all angles of vision. The athlete’s eyes will not have to work harder to fight through bad optics, and of course it blocks 100% of harmful UVA, UVB & UVC light.
MW: What role does customer feedback have at Oakley?
DL: We are always looking to our customers to provide honest feedback. We use trade shows and other key golf events throughout the year to engage with customers and buyers so we can continue to evolve as a performance–driven brand. Also having the benefit of working with the best professional golfers on the planet helps as we continue to gain feedback for future Oakley Golf products.
MW: How is customer feedback used for future product development?
DL: Customer feedback is key to developing future collections and technologies. We are constantly listening to the needs of our golfing customers, who provide feedback on everything from the fit of the glasses across a wide range of head sizes and face shapes, airflow andventing concerns and solutions for humid areas of the country, lens shapes and sizes, colors, price points, etc. We welcome all feedback and are open to understanding how we can better improve our lenses. From the number one professional to the weekend enthusiast, they all use the exact same product. Consumers wear exactly what Oakley professionals wear and knowing that puts our customers at ease.
Additionally, we use a range of trial and testing before launching a product to ensure we have a good pulse on how customers will react to a product.
MW: Do product endorsements matter from users on the PGA and LPGA Tours?
DL: Absolutely, we specialize in golf and are committed to the sport. Through endorsements and our athletes, we are able to bring the Oakley brand to the most notable courses and renowned tournaments in the world.
MW: What future trends do you see happening in the eyewear category?
DL: The infusion of lifestyle elements in the golf category is a strong trend this year. It’s one of the reasons we showcased lifestyle models such as Silver, Mainlink and Turbine with Prizm technology this year at the PGA Merchandise Show and it was a big hit. Some golfers want a more leisurely look on the course, and now Oakley has frame options with Prizm Golf lenses for that look they want.
MW: The PGA Merchandise Show just concluded in Orlando — how would you characterize the overall mood of the event as we head into the ’16 golf season?
DL:The PGA Merchandise Show is always an event Oakley looks forward to. The leading golf brands come together to showcase their product lines for the upcoming year, and it is exciting to see how the market has evolved year to year. Twelve months ago, we introduced Oakley PrizmGolf at the 2015 Orlando show, and to now see how this technology has been embraced by the golf community has been amazing; this year the accounts, media and fans came looking for the next new Oakley Eyewear products, so the PGA Orlando event is critical for Oakley as a springboard for the coming year. We are extremely excited for 2016 based off the strong PGA show we had. This is going to be an exciting year in golf, including the re-introduction of golf as an Olympic sport this August in Rio. Get ready to see some amazing new Oakley product at this year’s Rio games!