Two of the world's three largest plastic golf cleat manufacturers — Softspikes Inc. and MacNeill Engineering Worldwide — have joined their manufacturing and marketing operations in a surprising bid to dominate the golf spike market.
Under terms of the 10-year deal, Softspikes, based in Rockville, Md., and MacNeill, based in Marlborough, Mass., will remain separate companies. MacNeill will continue to make and sell its other products, including metal golf spikes.
But the alliance will give Softspikes control over retail marketing of polyurethane cleats from both companies, while MacNeill will oversee all manufacturing, including managing Softspikes' plant in Boise, Idaho.
No money changed hands as part of the deal, officials said.
``They [Softspikes] marketed the hell out of us,'' said MacNeill spokeswoman Deborah Hanson. ``They became a household name. They became like Kleenex.''
But Softspikes spokesman Brian Golden said MacNeill has 60 years of experience with manufacturing and long-standing relationships with original equipment manufacturers and shoe companies that the upstart, 4-year-old Softspikes could not match. MacNeill will handle OEM relationships for both companies.
That manufacturing expertise and OEM relationships will prove valuable as plastic continues to expand its share of the market, Golden said.
About 2,100 golf courses have banned metal spikes because they damage the course, up from 1,400 earlier this year.
Softspikes has been aggressively defending what it sees as challenges to its patents, suing to block patents for the one other company with a large presence in the plastic golf cleat market, United Kingdom-based Trisport Ltd.
But those legal actions had nothing to do with forming the alliance, both companies said. Softspike officials had said earlier this year they were reviewing similar designs by MacNeill for patent infringement.
The alliance makes for strange legal bedfellows, considering that Softspikes has sued Etonic over a spike design that MacNeill manufactures, Hanson said.
``It is a very incestuous business,'' he said.
Golden said there are no developments in Softspikes' Trisport court case.
Officials from both companies said no plans have been made about which of the three plants in the alliance will be expanded, although Golden said one scenario calls for making some MacNeill's products in Boise, which will be the only Western facility in the alliance.
MacNeill has facilities in Marlborough and Laconia, N.H.
MacNeill also makes 80 percent of the world's metal golf spikes, either under its own name or for companies such as Adidas or Nike, and makes cleats for other sports.