He’s the world’s first billionaire athlete. He’s won more awards and shattered more records than anyone in his field. Even mentioning the sport brings to mind one iconic figure; golf is Tiger Woods.
Since he became engulfed in allegations of multiple extramarital affairs following a mysterious car accident outside his Florida home last November, the world has learned just how important Tiger is to golf, and his corporate sponsors. Although projections vary, the scandal is estimated to have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by Tiger $5 billion to $12 billion in losses.
Sponsors who have dropped Woods include technology outsourcing and consulting firm Accenture, Procter & Gamble Co ’s shaving products maker Gillette (which dropped the golfer from its marketing), and telecommunications giant AT&T. However, Tiger’s biggest and longest sponsor Nike has said they are standing by the golfer as he hits the rough. Luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer has gone back and forth with Tiger but has yet to officially drop him.
Besides being the hottest scandal in recent sporting history, the Tiger Woods incident is also a great case study for those in the world of marketing. It has provoked us to reflect on the value—and risk—involved in building brands around a single person or idea. His brand of video games alone has earned millions for EA Sports and his personal piggybank. This has been the ultimate crisis point for Tiger as a brand and an athlete. His indefinite departure from the sport was an honorable thing to do given the nature of the scandal; his very own crisis management strategy. Has this saved Tiger from further scrutiny? Was he able to save face by giving up his love of golf in order to resolve his character flaws? Like his sponsors, some people say that his actions are unforgivable, while others are standing by their iconic role model figure.
Not even a month after the scandal, Tiger was voted Athlete of the Decade by Associated Press, and he’s graced the cover of countless magazines and journals. Sports biggest brand may have suffered the greatest blow of his career, but the brand of Tiger Woods is far from expired.