Vice Golf burst onto the equipment scene in 2012 as an online direct-to-consumer golf ball brand based in Germany.
Led by young entrepreneurs Ingo Duellmann and Rainer Stöckl, Vice’s mission was delivering premium quality multi-layer golf balls priced well below established names.
The company also embraced bold, provocative marketing campaigns and a hip image resonating with younger players. This unique formula quickly built Vice into one of golf’s cult-favorite brands.
But unlike power players Titleist, TaylorMade, and Callaway, Vice lacks big-name pros showcasing its products on tour. So do any professionals actually play Vice golf balls in tournaments? Let’s investigate Vice’s presence on pro tours.
Vice’s Strategy Away From Tour Sponsorships
As a nimble startup competing against industry juggernauts, Vice strategically avoided lucrative tour player endorsements and sponsorships early on.
The significant financial commitments required were seen as potentially hazardous for the young company. R&D and direct sales were prioritized instead.
Vice also recognized its irreverent, punk rock ethos hardly matched the personality of most conservative tour professionals.
So Vice intentionally stayed disconnected from the pro game to grow organically through grassroots marketing and social media.
The approach proved successful, though limits Vice’s exposure at elite tournaments relative to its surging popularity.
Vice’s Growing Presence on Pro Tours
While definitely an outlier brand on pro tours currently, Vice has slowly increased its professional presence as the company matures:
- Korn Ferry Tour – Several up-and-coming players have embraced Vice’s value proposition early in their careers. Notables include Carl Yuan, Augusto Núñez, and David Skinns.
- European Tour – Vice’s European roots have attracted sponsorships with rising stars like Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Johannes Veerman of the USA.
- LPGA Tour – American star Danielle Kang has been a Vice partner since 2016, its first big tour splash. She has since won multiple LPGA events with a Vice ball in play.
- PGA Tour Champions – South African great Retief Goosen is the lone top player on the senior circuit aligned with Vice through a personal endorsement deal.
While still lagging behind top brands in tour exposure, Vice’s footprint expands annually as more pros discover Vice balls matched to their game.
Why Some Professionals Play Vice
The solo rebels who have put Vice’s Pro and Pro Plus tour balls in play cite several motivations:
- Value for performance on par with premium balls from Titleist and TaylorMade. Significantly lower cost.
- Appealing to youth and Vice’s passionate niche fan base. Aligns with their personal brand.
- Opportunity to get in early with a cool upstart rather than just another established brand.
- Freedom from the intense competition for limited tour staff contracts at big companies. Vice offers more flexibility.
- Direct communication and input with Vice’s founders rather than just being one of many tour staffers.
The unique Vice culture attracts anti-establishment mentalities despite the lack of tour notoriety…for now.
Vice’s Challenges Attracting More Tour Players
While Vice has made tour inroads, significant obstacles remain in luring additional professionals:
- No option for full multi-year contracts with lucrative bonuses, as Vice’s venture financing remains limited.
- Unproven long-term staying power compared to decades-old incumbents.
- Limited tour staff support representatives to service pros at events.
- Miniscule marketing budget versus leaders spending $50+ million annually.
- No irons or wedges to complete a full-bag fitting for pros. Ball-only deals are tougher sells.
- Cool niche image but not prestige factor of established brands.
- Conservative golf culture shunning Vice’s disruptive ethos.
Unless acquired by a larger firm, Vice must overcome these barriers through more organic growth.
How Vice Markets to Amateurs
Lacking big-name pros, Vice channels its marketing dollars into targeting average golfers:
- Edgy, humorous ads position the brand as youthful and anti-establishment.
- Aggressive social media engagement with customers and brand advocates.
- Referral program incentives motivate customers to recruit others.
- Strong SEO and content marketing educate golfers online.
- Generous trial and satisfaction guarantee product policies.
- Grassroots sponsorships at events popular with core demographics.
- Outreach to university golf programs links Vice to the next generation.
For Vice, a decentralized approach is winning more amateur converts than pros…so far.
Would Signing a Star Help Vice?
Vice surely has pondered partnerships with recognizable PGA Tour stars like Rickie Fowler who match the brand’s identity. But the pros and cons would require close scrutiny:
- Immediate awareness spike from the golf world watching a star playing Vice golf balls.
- Increased interest and trial from fans of whoever the star might be.
- Perceived legitimacy as a true premium ball besides long-time brands.
- Momentum gains against competitors in retail stores and pro shops.
- Budget impact of signing and maintaining multiple six-figure contracts.
- Loss of underdog, cult brand image.
- Player performance fails to validate Vice as a tour-caliber ball.
- DIstracting focus from amateur and social strategies.
Signing the right star could accelerate Vice’s growth immensely, but only if done prudently.
What Does the Future Hold?
Vice seems destined for an interesting future given its contradictory position as an established brand still positioned as the underdog:
- Core fans insist Vice should never “sell out” and join the establishment. Stay grassroots.
- Mainstream demand and retailers want big tour names to legitimize Vice against competitors.
- Acquisition rumors could accelerate pro exposure but dilute Vice’s indie culture.
- Or…Vice may just slowly grow its tour presence organically by supporting young international talents rather than American superstars.
How Vice navigates these tensions will greatly impact the brand’s future in pro golf.
While eschewing expensive tour sponsorships initially, Vice Golf now sees modest but growing acceptance among professional players, especially internationally and on developmental tours.
A few bold individual stars have aligned with Vice’s disruptive ethos. But significant obstacles remain for Vice expanding its pro presence to match wide amateur appeal.
Signing the right marquee name could skyrocket Vice’s notoriety if managed strategically against brand risks.
For now, Vice’s wise patience, grassroots marketing, and social savvy keep driving the company forward amidst golf’s competitive equipment landscape.