Brands Line Up Behind Tiger: 'Private Matter'

Tiger Gatorade Tiger Woods' statement on Monday that the bang-up last week at his house near Orlando, Fla. was "a private matter, and I want to keep it that way" is being echoed by marketers who have hired him as a brand sponsor.

A spokesperson for Gillette says the company is letting Tiger do the talking. "Gillette isn't issuing a statement," he says. "We feel that Tiger's statement covers the topic."

Two years ago, Woods joined tennis great Roger Federer and soccer pro Thierry Henry in a triumvirate of "Gillette Champion" appearing in TV ads and marketing programs to support the Fusion razor line.

In the same year, Woods signed a five-year deal with PepsiCo's Gatorade to have his own line of "Gatorade Tiger" beverages that began rolling out in March last year. The deal is worth an estimated $100 million, including TV, print, digital, retail, promotions and sampling. Pepsi has issued a terse statement supporting the athlete and their association: "We wish Tiger well as he recovers and look forward to seeing him back on the course soon. Our partnership with Tiger continues."



All told, Woods has pulled in about $770 million in endorsement cash between 1996 and 2007, and his face is on everything from Accenture's "Go on, be a Tiger" to ads for Tag Heuer watches. The highest-paid professional athlete in 2008 -- pulling in something like $110 million including endorsements -- Woods has in recent years also pitched GM's Buick division, General Mills, American Express, Nike and Titleist.

He was also signatory to what, in 2000, was the biggest endorsement pact ever -- a $105 million deal with Nike Golf. That Beaverton, Ore.-based company had no comment by press time.

John Meindl, president and CEO of New York-based sports marketing, branding and production firm SportsBrandedMedia, predicts Woods will not lose endorsements as a result of his problems. He notes that other athletes with issues with more serious sponsorship implications have largely gotten a pass. Olympic medal winner/swimmer Michael Phelps lost his deal with Kellogg Co. this year after his malfeasance with a bong; and, in a much more serious case, NBA star Kobe Bryant, accused of sexual assault in 2003, lost nearly all of his sponsorship deals, but eventually regained several of them, including Nike, Spalding and Coca-Cola.

"Woods is just in a different class," says Meindl. "To date, he has been virtually untouchable. If anything, this takes away his 'perfect guy' image that has made him seem beyond reproach. It makes him more human. And, depending on what shakes out, if every guy playing pro sports lost his job as result of an extramarital affair, there wouldn't be many guys playing."

Jack Trout, author, marketing guru and president of Trout & Partners in Old Greenwich, Conn., says the issue is a non-story that, paradoxically, burns best without oxygen. "It's a stupid story blown out of proportion, and it's not even worth the ink, but there is one lesson playing out here: There's an old saying in the PR business that silence grants the point," he says. "And I think someone as visible as Tiger Woods can't stay silent. It supports all the stuff flying around. By not speaking, you grant whatever people want to cook up. That's the lesson."

Barry Janoff, executive editor of, says Woods won't suffer at all from the incident over this past weekend unless it is proven that it was a domestic violence issue or something involving the safety of his kids, which might be related to a DUI situation.

"Again, any of this would have to be proven -- a statement from Woods and/or his wife -- and not be based on speculation. A simple car accident would not affect his marketing deals, and a case of infidelity might cause Woods to stay out of the limelight for a time but, again, would not cause any of his sponsors to bail. In fact, they likely would rally behind him because he has been loyal to them."

4 comments about "Brands Line Up Behind Tiger: 'Private Matter' ".
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  1. JD. Hunt from Hunt 5 Productions, December 1, 2009 at 5:19 a.m.

    Stonewalling the police is not a good sign. We'll see what the sponsors do if Tiger hit his wife, as has been speculated.

  2. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 1, 2009 at 10:53 a.m.

    We manufacture clay idols and then wonder why they crumble. The guy is a good golfer. Big deal.

  3. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, December 1, 2009 at 1:31 p.m.

    I agree that most brands will not run away unless a darker story than him cheating comes out. The ones that will withdraw will be the Holier Than Thou brands that profess Socially Conservative Values (like for example Walmart could never hire him). But lucky for Tiger (and everyone) most Brands are just after the Almighty Dollar vs saving anyone's soul.

  4. Shauna Morrison from Z-CARD N. A., December 4, 2009 at 8:23 a.m.

    Humanized? Really? I find that an insulting call on exactly which behaviors humanize our "idols" in the eyes of the public. Maybe just a bit of bias here coming from companies and folks with a vested interest in his image and its relationship to their products.

    Gee, I think if something similar happened in my life, very few spectators would think it's just humanization playing out. But then again, my ability with a golf club is more akin to his wife's than Tiger's.

    Please don't spin the story here in an effort to maintain Tiger's value as a spokesperson. I'm not an conservative extremist by any stretch of anyone's imagination, but his supposed transgressions were low and cheap not to mention, outright foolish. And that's seems to be the the read with any of the non-media, non-pr, non-spin doctor folks I hear speak of it. The water cooler chatter is that he's stupid and a horn-dog. So, boys, who's gonna step up and pare their brand with his new "humanized" image? Any takers?

    His behavior was not normal behavior of the average Joe, so stop playing it as such.

    My personal, humanized suggestion to all those who think he can survive the tarnish and somehow regain his "idol" status is please stop drinking your own kool-aid in an effort to cover your investment. The public is smarter than that.

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