Impact on the Tiger Woods brand

Friday, 04 December 2009 14:53

Tiger Woods is a brilliant golfer. He's also a mammoth global sports brand with the kind of iconic brand recognition and power that has companies crawling over themselves to get associated with. The brand associations Tiger Woods has always conveyed are wholesomeness, stability and well-roundedness. Just the things that domestic violence, infidelity, and a subsequent cover-up flies in the face of.

How will the Tiger Woods brand be effected long-term? According to David Schwab, vice president of Octagon Sports Marketing's First Call and managing director of athletes and personalities, Woods' occupies a position where he's almost out of reach and won't be effected long-term. "He is unique in terms of his global appeal, size and long-term ability. He's not like a prime-time actor competing with 30 other competitors. He doesn't compete with anyone."

Furthermore Woods' primary demographic are middle to upper-class males, who "tend to be a lot more forgiving," said Larry McCartney, associate professor of sports marketing at Seton Hall University's Center for Sport Management.

Already Nike has issued a statement of support, and it's expected that others will follow suit. That's not to say that Tiger shouldn't be concerned about his income streams from endorsements. It's estimated that much of his billion dollar fortune is derived from a decade worth of endorsement deals. In this case we're talking about mega-brands such as Nike, Gilette, American Express, TAG Heuer, Gatorade and others. Think of an endorsement as a relationship whereby the endorser leverages good will and credibility off the brand power of the endorsed.

Many of these contracts hold a "morals clause" that allows the sponsor to cancel or change the terms of engagement in the event of breach. Infidelity is definitely one such breach. Tiger isn't a politician who's wrapped himself up in a blanket of family values. But there is no doubt that cheating (if proved true) will damage his brand at least in the short term.

And when it comes to what really counts, there is the chance that this crisis will impact his performance on the course. If he were to underperform throughout the next year, this story will continually come up as an explanation. It will take time for the Tiger Woods brand to recover its sheen, and may affect endorsments that were on the negotiating table when this broke. However with effective brand management, Woods will probably be able to get past this and recover his brand power for the long haul.