Tiger announced his indefinite hiatus from golf last Friday. Almost concurrently, Gillette came out with their adroit if still obvious spin on the situation by announcing this change to their advertising: “We will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs.” Wow, it’s so gracious and selfless of them to help Tiger keep a low profile…
The ongoing fallout from the one-car accident with the multi-mistress pile up has made the Tiger Sponsorship Deathwatch the center of casual debate in marketing circles. Anytime an endorser’s name and the word ‘crisis’ appear together, things get uncomfortable in client headquarters. Yesterday, Accenture, who more than anyone else built their marketing program around Tiger’s stature, finally weighed in.
“…given the circumstances of the last two weeks, after careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising.”
Oh man, that puts a lasting crimp in Tiger’s image rehabilitation plans. Up until that moment, Tiger’s agent Mark Steinberg, a man infamous for maintaining positive spin as a necessary trade-off for access, had been very successful at convincing Tiger’s sponsors to maintain discretion or only put out blather about ‘supporting him.’ That’s clearly over now.
What’s far less clear is Tiger’s future. Early on, this seemed less a crisis and more a situation. But as the numbers and details continued to spiral into a firestorm of the prurient and salacious, the hopes of quickly offering some contrition and popping back into public favor disappeared. Last year his endorsement’s earned him an estimated $110 million; it’s safe to say he will never see numbers like that again. Ever.
But beyond the cost to himself, the real concern to sports marketers must be the corresponding impact on the PGA. When Tiger left the tour last year for knee surgery, the ratings dropped averaged 50%. That’s a seriously frightening reality for hundreds of people and corporations hitched to that wagon. Moreover, it could signal a frightening ebb to what had been ten years of growing interest in this longtime niche sport by the general public.
Tiger may be the one who drove off the road, but it’s the PGA that’s truly in the rough.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79