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 NYSportsJournalism.com, 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."