Nike Ad with Tiger and Earl Woods

A few months ago when the Tiger Woods scandal first started to unfold, I wrote a piece about what the brands he was associated with would do, how they would react and which would desert him. You can read that here.

I was a bit inconclusive as to how the brands he hangs out with would react. But it appears they have decided to stick with him and embrace him for all his faults. This ad is an amazing one and must be unique where our fallen hero doesn’t get to speak, but rather stare slightly sheepishly into the camera whilst his late father asks him if he has learnt anything.

I watched the US Masters coverage last night on the BBC and I have to say that I was surprised to see that he seems to have been well and truly forgiven (or have they just forgotten?) by the US golf watching community. He was cheered by men, women and children as he played every shot and entered every green.

Maybe Nike have made a brilliant decision in sticking with him, but I guess the result on Sunday night will be the biggest single decider as to whether he is back for good. Me, I’m cheering on our boy Lee Westwood, with a firm support for the elegant Ian Poulter.


I’ve thought about this a lot since I first wrote it yesterday and watched more of the excellent BBC coverage again last night. I have to say, that I am slightly put out by Tiger Woods and his approach to his own brand. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this is something of a desperate attempt to keep ‘in’ with his sponsors – but at any cost. I know how hard it was when I lost my own father, so for Tiger to literally sell his own father’s voice for the benefit of one of his sponsors is pretty low and shows the depths to which he will stoop to make money.

Augusta is a bubble. A micro climate where reality is suspended. A place where they’ll spend $80m on their practice area to create the perfect golf environment. Tiger has been the king of Augusta. Few of his peers can hold a candle to his performances on this course. His closing day is normally better than the field by a mile.

But yesterday was Seve’s 52nd birthday and he was my golf hero, before the brands took control of the players. He stands for individuality, fight, courage, respect and outrageous shot making. Tiger can claim the last, but the respect for even his father – who he claims was his hero and mentor – at the behest of his sponsors has gone – and I don’t see him ever getting it back.

Maybe the American public haven’t noticed this yet, but this is the beginning of the end for me. Not the affairs, the lies or even the car crash. Once you lose respect for yourself, your days as a brand icon are numbered.

The Tiger brand is well and truly tanked

Not one to kick a man when he’s down but some of the numbers that surround Tiger Woods’ sponsorship deals are starting to reach the public domain. So lets look at a few of them and see which ones have a chance of surviving.

1. Gatorade

The Pepsi owned gatorade brand is one of the biggest at with a multi year $100m deal. Gatorade is a drink that aims to promote sports, concentration and clean success. The drink they have created is Gatorade Tiger, which you can see here.

Gatorade Tiger - Put a Tiger in your tank next time you need to perform!

I would imagine, if it’s selling they’ll keep it in their line up anyway and one thing he isn’t short of is coverage at the moment, despite his being in total hiding for over two weeks now.

They announced on Wednesday last that they would be withdrawing it, but that this was nothing to do with his personal problems. It’s a bit of a coincidence though isn’t it.

The long term damage for Gatorade’s brand is to be established but with Pepsi, they will distance themselves very fact if they need to.

2. Accenture

These are the people that just escaped from the corporate clutches of Arthur Andersen that was brought down by the Enron scandal. They have it in their interest to both act and appear to be as clean as clean in a brand sense. Any sniff of a scandal will see them running for the hills.

They have just removed the Woods image that has been on rotation on their front page of their website. Oops.

3. Gillette

Thierry Henry is allowed to cheat and put France through to the World cup finals and deprive Ireland from their chance to progress and yet he still seems to be acceptable to the brand.

But infidelity runs deeper and hits harder. We become a prudy bunch in the uK and the US even more so, so Gillette may well drop him altogether.

Or will they?

When Thierry had his affair with celebrity make-up artist, Sadie Hewlett, they didn’t drop him then, so maybe Tiger will survive.

Gillette's Roger,  Thierry and Tiger - a really wholesome bunch of gents
Gillette's Roger, Thierry and Tiger - a really wholesome bunch of gents

I guess all eyes are on Roger Federer now to keep his end up (so to speak) and to see if they can make it a full house of cheats. Gillette hve aid they will be cutting back the role that Tiger plays in their promotional material.

4. Nike

Nike is obviously one of the names he’s most closely associated with and he appears to still be at least listed on their site.

It’s hard to say how high profile he was on this site before, but he’s now only listed under their athletes and even then he is last on the list. There are no other pictures of him on the front pages of the site at all.

That sounds expensive.

5. EA Sports

Tiger Woods golf for the Wii, is one of the only computer games I have ever played and I loved it. Its worth over $60m as a brand and I don’t believe this will take one tiny hint of damage. Maybe they’ll push him on the deal next time they renegotiate, but who else have they got in the game that is anywhere near as high profile?

6. Summary

There’s obviously others like Swiss watch maker TAG Heuer and AT&T who all help with his $100m a year sponsorship income, but for me, after this does down a little, most if not all will stick by him as a brand spokesperson if he continues to be good for their business.

He needs to realign his own brand a little. He can’t really claim the moral high ground anymore and he will struggle massively with some mainstream family brands, but if he adjusts his position to be a little more ‘laddy’ and works the media a little, he can possibly recover his status.

David Beckham did it by concentrating on being good at what he does and by being photographed everywhere with his kids, looking like he’s having fun.

Hot off the press

It’s just been announced that Accenture will be withdrawing from the deal with Tiger, stating that he is no longer the right representative for their brand. It looks like they are being as sensitive about any potential bad press as I thought they maybe. There will now be others following. Expect Gatorade to go more public pretty soon.