Chief Operating Officer
Interview with Matt Ward
Eyewear has really taken off in the last 10-15 years on nearly all the professional golf tours. How much of that is fashion related and how much is because of the desire to protect eyes from harsh sunlight?
While eyewear on the course has become a fashion choice for some, most golfers choose eyewear to protect their eyes from being exposed to harsh UV rays for long periods of time. Additionally, more and more recreational and professional players are learning that optical quality lenses and tint combinations are important and can enhance performance.
Is the usage of eyewear on the course still a generational divide — with more younger players regularly using it than long time players?
Younger players have been more exposed to “protection” messaging, as it relates to UV rays and the damaging effects of the sun. Without experiencing eyewear as a part of their ‘gear’ firsthand – some long time players may be cautious to utilize the product with concern that it might hinder their performance. As of late, long time players are starting to move away from that falsity and eyewear is becoming more commonplace on the course.
Under Armour has an active relationship with Hunter Mahan to wear the product. What specific contributions did he provide in the overall product’s development?
Our design team has collaborated with Hunter from beginning concepts to final execution of eyewear designs. Hunter is and will continue to be a great asset to the brand, as he remains actively involved with everything from design inspiration and wear testing. While we remain focused on ways to improve comfort and visibility in our designs, working with an athlete like Hunter and other world class golfers allows us to better understand what is needed to drive performance on the course.
Is there any difference from what tour professionals want from eyewear versus those at the club or public course level?
In general, no. Professionals, like most consumers, are looking for eyewear that is comfortable, un-obstructive, yet still fashionable. It’s on your face, its eyewear. They specifically look for eyewear that will not get in their line of sight when they are looking down at the ball or out at their shot. Lens tints can play an important role as high contrast; color-enhancing tints can increase visibility where it matters most.
What differentiates what Under Armour is going versus that of your competitors?
A few things. Overall, Under Armour Eyewear stays true to the brand mantra of “making all athletes better,” by putting visibility and comfort at the forefront of our product designs. We take into consideration the line of sight through our advanced ArmourSight technology, which allows for distortion free vision on the course. It is vital to any player that their sightline isn’t distorted. In addition to lens technology, we spend a great deal of time enhancing our frames with multiple levels of comfort. All of our sport styles include a customizable and adjustable nose bridge, and our new styles for ’16 include our advanced UA AutoGrip technology. This patent pending technology includes co-molded flex rubber temples that conform to your head shape, and really fit comfortably when you are outside for long periods of time. They also slide nicely under a fitted cap.
How does Under Armour encourage customer feedback?
We constantly reach out to and receive feedback on our products through an extensive list of professional and amateur athletes that have ties to the brand. Feedback is received before a product is commercialized and sold to the public through an extensive wear test process, using Under Armour’s elite professional athletes, as well as amateur collegiate and grade school level participants. After the product is commercialized, we continue mining for feedback in many ways; one example would be at events. With organizations like the American Junior Golf Association, we are a continued sponsor for several events and have direct involvement with the golfers that attend.
How important is it to have exposure of eyewear for those competing on the professional golf tours?
Exposure on course is extremely helpful. Having competitors on course, both professionals and leisure, only enhances the story we are telling and allows others to see that we are credible in a particular space. Unlike most sports, if your golf professional is in contention on the weekend, the airtime they receive compared to other sports, except for tennis, is incredible. This airtime translates directly into exposure, creditability and ultimately the ability to distribute more Under Armour sunglass products.
Curious to know — are there any differences in terms of specific preferences between men and women?
The male consumer is sometimes looking for a more athletic or aggressive look. The female consumer tends to be more conservative and more concerned with a certain style aesthetic. However, where they come together is that both are typically looking for frames that are bottom rimless, where a plastic rim does not exist on the bottom of the frame (to help with sightlines when in your stance and looking down to play your shot and a lens tint that enhances the contrast of white ball against a green backdrop.
How long was the overall process in creating the Game Day Lens?
The game day lens tint is a special combination of material dyes that were developed through years of research with our partner Carl Zeiss Vision. Continuous research and analysis went into designing the perfect formula of a high contrast lens tint, eliminating certain light spectrums to enhance what is important to the specific end user’s eyes on course.
What type of future trends can one expect in the eyewear category?
Lens tint color stories will continue to be prevalent in the market. It is especially important for the brand to understand the consumer and end user and create an ‘experience’ that will enhance their ability to perform. Where most fashion brands base their choices on aesthetics, as a sport performance brand, it is important that we offer combinations that are optimal and best suited for our end use golfers and athletes.
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