I blew this one. In a blog post on December 1, I maintained that Tiger Woods’ value as a celebrity endorser would likely be impacted little by the fallout triggered by his traffic accident on Thanksgiving morning. That assertion was based on an assumption that his transgressions were limited in scope. We have since come to learn otherwise!
Now that Tiger has announced an indefinite leave from golf and the PGA Tour, sorting out the damage done becomes a bit easier. Three parties hurt by this situation are:
3. Tiger’s sponsors – Companies that have Woods under contract as an endorser are having to deal with the embarrassment of the situation, but their brands stand for more than Tiger Woods. The more heavily invested a company’s marketing platform is in Woods, the greater it will be hurt. Accenture is a sponsor whose marketing is heavily linked with Woods. On the other hand, Gillette has many other endorsers that it can shift focus toward and minimize its association with Tiger Woods if it chooses.
2. Tiger Woods – His brand image and reputation have taken serious hits, but not before raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsement earnings. And, there is the opportunity for redemption. While his brand equity in the marketplace may never return to pre-scandal heights, there is potential to remain a viable brand.
1. PGA and golf in general – The biggest loser is the PGA Tour. We have seen glimpses of what a Tiger-less PGA Tour is like when he missed time following knee surgery. TV ratings drop and event attendance declines. While some events hold star power such as The Masters and U.S. Open, many tour stops benefit from Tiger Woods being in the field.
Let’s hope Tiger Woods makes a comeback. He’s good for golf, but more importantly, his return to golf would signal progress in rehabbing problems in his personal life.
News of a traffic accident involving Tiger Woods created concern, followed by curiosity about how and why Woods had a wreck in the early hours of November 27. While there is a great deal of speculation about what happened, speculation that better fits the content of gossip web sites than a marketing blog, there seems to be little evidence that the episode will negatively impact Tiger Woods, endorser extraordinaire. So far, sponsors have agreed with Woods’ assertion that the incident is a private matter and have largely stayed out of the situation.
Unless revelations of inappropriate behavior by Tiger Woods surface, the fallout from his accident on his endorsement potential will be minimal. Tiger has built tremendous brand equity through years of superior play and consistency as a product endorser. The image of Tiger Woods is largely positive, and while embarrassing details could emerge that change the way some people view him, Tiger Woods will continue to be an effective endorser. Americans have a short memory and forgiving heart when it comes to their heroes. I believe Tiger Woods’ situation will benefit from those characteristics of the American public.
Marketing Daily – “Brands Line Up Behind Tiger: ‘Private Matter'”
Tiger Woods is second only to Michael Jordan in his prowess as a product endorser. He has associated his name with several products since arriving on the national sports scene in the mid 1990s, but one of Tiger’s most visible endorsements has been of General Motors’ Buick brand. His relationship with Buick seemed both appropriate and odd. The pair was appropriate because of an overlap between the target market characteristics for Buick and PGA Tour followers. The Tiger-Buick link seemed odd because Buick and golf are perceived as skewing toward older males, and here was a twenty-something “kid” endorsing an old guy’s brand. Turns out that the partnership worked for Buick as owner data indicates the average age of a Buick driver dropped from around 50 to 40 during the Tiger Woods-Buick era.
That era is coming to an end as Woods and Buick amicably part ways. Both sides are saying all the right things, but GM’s woeful financial picture has to have played a role in the decision to end the relationship. GM had already announced it would not be advertising during upcoming high profile events such as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. Fortunately for GM, the positive effects of its association with Tiger Woods will likely carry over for a period of time following the end of his endorsement deal. While brand building needs are taking a hit at GM these days, the company is in a fight for survival first.
Link: Ad Age – “GM Ending Tiger Woods Endorsement Deal”