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The Driving Force

Felix Winternitz

To say you’ll find Bob Philion in the sporting goods aisle doesn’t quite do justice to the 1993 marketing graduate. Philion is the president of Cobra-Puma Golf, the sports lifestyle conglomerate based jointly in Boston and San Diego. The firm markets fitness footwear and fashion—and now golf clubs—to a global audience.

A year ago, Philion hit the ground running in his new posting after a lifetime of preparation as global head of golf and international business for Puma, the legendary sports apparel manufacturer. Puma recently crafted an alliance with Cobra, the well-established golf equipment manufacturer, that makes golfers look better and play better.

Philion’s new role highlights a career spent in the sporting goods world. He was vice president of footwear for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Reebok, director of Pan-European accounts for Reebok and director of sales for Reebok’s Foot Locker stores in Europe.

While working for the footwear empire, he and his family hop-scotched across the continents, living in Paris and The Hague, Netherlands, among other locales. Philion has now settled in Carlsbad, Calif., with his wife Jenny, son Jackson and daughter Grace.

Of the Big Three sportswear companies that manufacture golf products—Nike, Puma and Adidas (through a partnership with TaylorMade)—Puma was the only firm not to make clubs. Now, all three are competing at the same level.

Philion is advocating a fusion of performance and innovation in order to separate his dual-identity company from its competitors. “We’re not trying to be the biggest in golf. We’re trying to be the most desirable.”

His mission pits him against name designers in the field such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Beatle daughter Stella McCartney.

The first athlete signed up under the newly merged brand is teen sensation Alexis “Lexi” Thompson, the youngest female golfer to turn professional.

“Lexi’s style and ground-breaking performance on the course make her the perfect Cobra and Puma Golf representative,” he says. Other endorsement celebrities on the Cobra-Puma roster include Rickie Fowler, Anna Nordqvist and Ian Poulter.

Lexi is the first golf athlete, however, to concurrently promote both the Cobra line of equipment and the Puma line of clothing. She’ll don Puma Smart Quill golf shoes and performance apparel while swinging a Cobra S2 Driver, Baffler Rail Hybrid and Cobra S2 Forged Irons.

“It’s not about how many polos we sell,” Philion says. “It’s all about building a base.”

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