Golf Pride, Avon and Lamkin are among the world’s biggest golf grip manufacturers, and all have been in business for several decades. Golf Pride are the market leaders, with over 80% of tour professionals choosing to use their grips. Avon have been on the go for almost four decades while Lamkin started off in 1926. Winn Grips are – comparatively speaking – the new kids on the block. Yet none of these companies, new or old, had the foresight to register GolfGrips.com, the defining domain name for their industry.
So who are the real owners of GolfGrips.com? Well, the domain was registered on July 8th, 1998, and the current owner is Estee Marketing, Inc, 700 Tower Road, Troy, MI, USA. Click on the link or type the domain name in your browser and you will find a simple cookie-cutter website selling – you guessed it – golf grips. According to the information on the website, they have been in business since 2006 and are an internet-only business to avoid the high overhead of maintaining brick and mortar storefronts.
Isn’t this the beauty of the internet? A tiny company based in Middle-America selling products around the world with no need for stores or any of the other up-front expenses of doing business in the real world, and with the credibility of the industry’s strongest domain name to support them. Back in the late 90s, people like these with a bit of foresight, technical knowledge, and $100 in their pocket were able to buy up domains that defined entire industries or industry niches, while their big competitors were still focusing on branding themselves using endorsements and old media.
What would it have been worth to Winn Grips, for example, as a relative newcomer on the scene, to have registered this domain back then? What branding and credibility would that have given them, if when people typed in the domain name or clicked on a link they landed on Winn’s website? There are different kinds of branding; one is the type where you brand your name and have to keep on spending money or the name recognition dwindles away. The other is generic branding, where you own the name of the product you’re selling or the service you offer. Customers don’t forget what they are looking for, even if they often forget the names of the companies operating in the space.
And thinking of Golf Pride, why wouldn’t they want to own this domain name, to more or less prove for all eternity that they are the leaders in the golf grip industry?
Any golf grip company ought to be able to make a case for owning this domain name, but my guess now is that whoever eventually owns it – and I do believe it has not yet reached its final destination or fullest use – will have to pay 7 figures for it. Companies might think of it primarily as a defensive move, because the risk of having one of their existing competitors or a new entrant to the market buying it and relegating them to second place is too great to take. The free traffic, credibility and name recognition would be a bonus.
It’s ironic how companies that pride themselves in making slip-resistant grips should have let a prize like this one slip through their grasp. The game’s not over yet, but the stakes are much higher now.