Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Ryder Cup: Sun Mountain Sports Suffers Huge PR Gaffe


Executives at Sun Mountain Sports, a golf company based in Missoula, Montana, are undoubtedly feeling embarrassed this morning after the rainsuits it designed for the US Ryder Cupteam weren't able to hold off the downpour in Wales.

Phil Mickelson of the USA rides on a buggy during the Morning Fourball Matches
Getty Images

So the US team publicly ditched the custom outfits for raingear the team purchased in the merchandise tent — with the Europe Ryder Cuplogo on it nonetheless.

For Sun Mountain, there's no retail recalls coming.

In one of the strangest arrangements in sports marketing, the companies that get awarded the rights to make the gear by the US team captain cannot put its logo on the gear, cannot publicize its relationship with the Ryder Cup and cannot sell its gear at retail per PGA of America rules.

Company president Ed Kowachek told me yesterday, before the debacle went down, that he didn't mind the stringent arrangement with the Ryder Cup team.

"It's an honor to be a part of this, so we have no problem downplaying the marketing," he said. "We don't want to steal the spotlight from the players or the game. We don't do it for the exposure."

What remains to be seen is how much damage Sun Mountain, which makes golf bags, outerwear and golf push carts, may face. Many outside the golf industry who have never heard of their brand now might see them as a tarnished company.

Is it possible that the rain was so bad that Sun Mountain can't be at fault? Possibly, but the jackets made by the European team seems to be holding up fine.

Kowachek didn't answer an e-mail or phone attempts by CNBC following up after this morning's events (*Note: see update), but one has to wonder if the custom nature of the order — the company only made one jacket for each member of the team — resulted in a less stringent quality control process as opposed to something that would be made in mass quantities. Or if the custom nature of the order meant that the jackets were made in a different factory than the factory that produces the company's normal retail products.

The funny thing about all this is that, given the wishes of the US Ryder Cup team and the PGA of America, Sun Mountain wouldn't even have gotten credit if the rain jackets worked phenomenally well. Of course the fact that they didn't will mean that they will be exposed and bashed as has been the case on television, blogs and Twitter all morning.

*UPDATE*— Statement from Sun Mountain: Sun Mountain has been designing and selling outerwear for more than two decades. We have provided rainwear to 3,000 plus PGA of America Professionals and over 150 tour players, and supplied outerwear to numerous U.S. teams, including the Walker Cup and the 2000 and 2009 Presidents Cup teams. Sun Mountain has staff on the ground at the Ryder Cup working in conjunction with the PGA of America on this issue.

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