Accenture’s Blunt Sunday Announcement: Go On, But Be…Something Else

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.”

Adevertising as Cultural Irony
Advertising as Cultural Irony

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

3 thoughts on “Accenture’s Blunt Sunday Announcement: Go On, But Be…Something Else

  1. mark wegener says:

    The numbers in this article from today’s NYT spells doom for Tiger’s current contracts. It’s very clear that he’s toxic and his current brand bankrupt. When people start linking the bad behavior to the product being endorsed, it’s ovah. And, once (if?) he starts playing again, it will never be the same, even if he wins every tournament he plays in.

    “The Nielsen IAG unit of the Nielsen Company found that the accident quickly affected the brands Mr. Woods peddles. There were more than 20 instances through Monday, Dec. 7, of jokes being made on late-night talk shows that paired Mr. Woods with one of his sponsors by name, according to Nielsen IAG.

    “The recall among viewers of the brand mentioned in the joke was 55 percent, according to Nielsen IAG, compared with a norm in late-night shows of 39 percent.

    “About 11 percent of those viewers who recalled a brand with ties to Mr. Woods said they had a negative opinion of the brand, Nielsen IAG reported, compared with the average negative opinion of a brand mentioned in a late-night show of 6 percent.”


    Here’s the entire piece.

  2. Fred says:

    It’s one thing to tie your product performance to Tiger’s athletic performance a la Nike. It’s another to tie your brand image and personality to Tiger’s well constructed but ultimately paper mache public image. That’s what Accenture did. The lesson here for marketers in borrowing celebrity equity: make it for what made them famous, typically performance or talent, not for the public image they try to portray.

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