Why Jason Day Switched from Nike to Malbon

A partnership that could change golf fashion and tour sponsorships as we know them.

Golf
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On Tuesday morning, former Nike athlete Jason Day announced he was leaving the brand to join Malbon Golf. For followers of Hypegolf, the LA-based Malbon needs no introduction, but there’s a good chance that at least half of Jason Day’s fans were opening Google en masse to learn more. It was a quick turnaround for Day, who’s in Hawaii this week for the PGA Tour’s season opener. Having just won a team tournament last month with Lydia Ko in the Swoosh’s form-fitting Dri-FIT gear, it was as if the Aussie had run to the nearest phone booth à la Superman, emerging with longer sleeves, roomier trousers and kiltie-adorned shoes. People constantly lament the lack of style on tour, but that’s about to change.

Day’s change of wardrobe wasn’t the only source of conversation though, as people began to wonder how an up-and-coming brand managed to poach one of golf’s most recognizable names away from a lucrative contract. Perhaps Malbon’s recent partnerships with Lexus and JBL provide a clue, perhaps Nike’s rumored exit from golf plays a part, but that’s all conjecture.

Ultimately, the challenges that small brands face in landing big name professional athletes don’t just come down to money, they come down to personality. The fact of the matter is, there just aren’t many golfers on tour who relate to the type of consumer that brands like Malbon, Bogey Boys and Metalwood Studio are trying to attract. But in Jason Day, Stephen and Erica Malbon have struck gold. Not only is Day controversy-free and perennially likable among his peers, but his transition to a lifestyle-focused brand feels quite natural.

From the beginning of his career, the Aussie has built a reputation for pushing the envelope when it comes to style. Those with a keen eye for footwear may remember him wearing the OG version of the Air Jordan 1 Golf shoes at the 2017 Open Championship, or the Nike Air Max 1 G “No Denim Allowed” at the 2019 US Open, or even a Cleveland Cavaliers-inspired colorway of the Nike Lunar Command at the 2017 Memorial Tournament.

This strong sense of identity, along with his impressive length as a young player, garnered comparisons to the great Tiger Woods as his career picked up steam in the early 2010s. At a time when Tiger was struggling with his game, the golf world was desperately searching for someone to fill the void. Looking back, those expectations were probably unfair. Like Woods, Day comes from a blended family, with an Irish-Australian father and a Filipino mother. And he did eventually reach number 1 in the world, but the moment was fleeting.

In 2021, having not won since the 2018 season, the 36-year-old fell to 123, his lowest ranking since his third year on tour. But with a win at last year’s Byron Nelson there are signs that his career is coming back to life, and his deal with Malbon Golf now anoints him as the public talisman for the sport’s fashion conscious movement with the next generation.

Ahead of his debut tournament with Malbon at the Tournament of Champions, Hypegolf caught up with Day as well as Malbon co-founder Stephen Malbon to dive further into the partnership.

Hypegolf: When did Malbon Golf first get on your radar?

Jason Day: Over the past year or so, I started hearing about Malbon and began seeing more people wearing it. The growing popularity and widespread appeal of the brand caught my attention, and being able to now align myself with Malbon feels like a natural and exciting step forward in embracing a brand that resonates with a diverse and fashion-forward audience.

HG: What appeals to you about the brand and about the partnership in general?

JD: As a Malbon ambassador, I get the chance to sport styles on the golf course that I wouldn’t typically wear as a professional golfer. Perhaps this marks the opening of another door, allowing me to bring the same sense of relaxation and refine my personal style on the golf course as I do in the comfort of my home.

HG: Going from Nike who makes a lot of performance gear to Malbon who are more fashion-focused will be a big change, are you at all concerned?

JD: I’m not concerned as I work with Stephen and the Malbon team to ensure the pieces that I am wearing are comfortable and performance-based. This collaborative effort not only guarantees a stylish appearance but also emphasizes my commitment to both comfort and peak performance, allowing me to confidently focus on my game.

HG: What pieces are you most excited to incorporate into your look?

JD: I’m excited to be able to go outside of the box and wear something that’s dramatically different to what everyone is used to seeing in golf today.

HG: Will Malbon influence the way you dress off the course as well?

JD: Absolutely, I will definitely be wearing Malbon off the course.

Later, Hypegolf had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen Malbon to get his thoughts on the milestone moment.

Hypegolf: How does Jason Day align with the Malbon brand?

Stephen Malbon: I have always been a big fan of Jason and have a lot of respect for who he is on and off the course. He is relatable, unapologetically himself, and embodies the ethos of Malbon. From his exceptional skills on the course to his authenticity in every aspect of life, Jason’s character is truly inspiring.

HG: What do you hope to accomplish by partnering with professional athletes?

SM: By partnering with professional athletes, I hope to show a relatable, approachable, and creative side to pro golfers. My aim is to break down barriers, showcasing the human side of these remarkable athletes and emphasizing the diverse talents, personalities, and passions that make them unique. If Malbon can make it on tour, it gives inspiration and hope to other upcoming brands.

HG: Who will style Jason throughout his 2024 campaign, and will that be a collaborative process?

SM: Yes, it will be a collaborative process between Jason and I.

HG: Will Jason be wearing Malbon golf shoes as well?

SM: Yes, he will be wearing some of our collaboration shoes throughout the season.

HG: Having come a long way in 6 years of developing Malbon Golf, how do you reflect on this moment?

SM: Since the inception of Malbon Golf, our goal has been to make golf cool and interesting to young people. We are feeling more inspired than ever with this new partnership, which gives us the opportunity to bring a feeling of youthfulness and creativity to the mainstream golf world.

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