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Couples Behind Golf Industry’s Surprise Best Seller
CNBC.com | July 28, 2010 | 04:34 PM EDT

When professional athletes in branded gear make a big splash, sports marketing insiders can’t wait to comment on how big a particular line of clothing or shoes will sell because of it. More often than not, I check back months later to find out it was not as big as it was made out to be.

Freddie Couples didn’t win this year’s Masters. But what happened to the shoes he wore in Augusta through, and the subsequent demand for them, will be part of sports marketing lore.

The fascinating story has its roots at a sales conference in January, when Ecco unveiled its spikeless Golf Street shoes.

It was a hybrid product made to be different.

But knowing that golf shoe history had only bad things to say about these types of ideas, the company understandably played it conservatively.

Sales projections for the $140 shoe in 2010? 2,000 pairs.

As an endorser of Danish shoe company Ecco for the past four years, the 50-year-old Couples had his choice of what he wanted to put on his feet this year. He asked for a few pairs. With the shoes on his feet, he won three tournaments in a row on the Champions Tour leading up to the Masters.

Ecco started to get some calls. A few stories about the shoes dribbled out. Without the spikes, they were easy to spot. Even easier when Couples trotted out on the golf course when he wore them without socks.

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