Lost in Wednesday’s brouhaha about Vijay Singh’s admitted use of a substance on the PGA Tour’s illegal drug list was a report from the recent PGA Merchandise Show that questioned the endorsement by New England's Keegan Bradley and other golfers of a product with suspect abilities to boost golfers’ games.
Golf Spelled Backwards did not suggest that the tour should ban Power Balance wristbands or that the company was engaged in anything more insidious than “flimflam.” In light of Joe Ogilvie’s comments on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” however, golfers may want to think twice before shelling out their hard-earned shekels (“limited edition best sellers” go for $30 each) on gear that is as likely to improve their performance as much as if they did nothing.
“Everybody is going to do something,” Ogilvie, a member of the tour’s player advisory council, told the morning golf show in reaction to the news that Singh used deer antler spray, a banned substance with questionable powers. “People were wearing bracelets two or three years ago....Athletes in general are going to look for something that’s going to help them.”
Which got us ruminating about LPGA Tour star Stacy Lewis’ turn in the Power Balance booth last week during the annual Orlando production. GSB wondered why she, Bradley, and Ricky Barnes -- the three professional golfers who pitch the company’s magical wristband based on “holographic technology” -- did so, given the firm’s sketchy history.
Essentially, as GSB noted, Power Balance claimed, from its inception in 2007 through 2010, that the mystical properties of its bracelets guaranteed wearers “up to a 500% increase in strength, power and flexibility.” Then “actual scientists” began testing the bands, and, lo and behold, the company’s claims proved to “a load of crap,” according to the “Flog” blog.
GSB detailed how the company’s bogus claims reached Australian government watchdog agencies, which forced Power Balance to refute its assertions. Late in 2011, amid a class-action lawsuit charging “inappropriate marketing claims,” which caused sales to plummet, the company filed for bankruptcy.
The corporation emerged last year as Power Balance Technologies Inc. and, with far less exalted assertions about what its wristbands could offer (“promotes comfort and breathability with the addition of the perforated air holes on a wider band,” according to a press release), enlisted Bradley, Lewis, and Barnes as paid endorsers.
GSB noted that nowhere on its website does Power Balance say why Bradley, Lewis, Barnes, or you should use its product.
“While we have received testimonials and responses from around the world about how Power Balance has helped people, there is no assurance it can work for everyone,” the company says on its FAQ page. “We make no claims and let the consumer decide based on their experience. That’s why we offer a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.”
As for what, specifically, Bradley, et al, were backing (“After three wins including a Major Championship, my Power Balance bands have become an important part of my practice and play,” reads Bradley’s seal of approval), GSB concluded that “you might as well tie a shoelace around your wrist -- you'll get the same effect (which is to say: no ‘effect’ at all).”
Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.