SBD/Issue 64/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Tiger On Hiatus: Accenture Becomes First Sponsor To Drop Woods

Accenture Says Woods Is No Longer The
Right Representative For Its Advertising
Global consulting firm Accenture yesterday said that it has "terminated its sponsorship pact" with Tiger Woods after six years amid the controversy surrounding his reported extramarital affairs, according to Steel & O'Connell of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Accenture's brand is "among the most closely associated with Mr. Woods's image," and sources said that company execs "started evaluating its sponsorship of Mr. Woods immediately when the news broke" Friday that Woods will take an indefinite break from professional golf. Accenture in a statement said of Woods, "After careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising." Marketing experts said that of all Woods' sponsors, Accenture "may have had the most vulnerability to the publicity crisis." Woods was the "centerpiece of the company's business-to-business ad campaigns," and "many of the firm's advertisement slogans appeared archly ironic in light of Mr. Woods's admitted misconduct." One recent print campaign included copy such as, "It's what you do next that counts," "Opportunity isn't always obvious" and "The road to high performance isn't always paved" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/14). In Manchester, Lawrence Donegan notes Accenture is "reported to be paying Woods" $7M annually (Manchester GUARDIAN, 12/14).

AN EASIER CALL THAN FOR OTHER COMPANIES: CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote Accenture's decision to drop Woods was "relatively easier" than it is for other companies because the relationship "involved a service instead of a product." The "direct revenue Woods brought to the consulting company wasn't as easily calculated as golf clubs, a video game or a sports drink" (CNBC.com, 12/14). NBC's "Nightly News" began its broadcast last night with news of the Woods-Accenture split, and Rovell said the company "relied on Tiger being as much a perfect man as it did a perfect golfer. That's where their advertising was going." Rovell: "Them coming out with a statement means a lot. It's not like they're going to go into airports, where their advertising was, and just take it down quietly and hope that you don't notice. They're telling you that they don't want to be associated with him. That is a big deal" ("Nightly News," NBC, 12/13).

TOO CLOSELY TIED NOT TO DROP TIGER: TV WEEK's Chuck Ross writes given the "oneness between Accenture and Woods, the company had no choice but to cut all ties with him." The Woods-Accenture partnership was the "perfect melding of pitchman to how a company wanted to communicate its image." Woods was a "metaphor for Accenture, and a large part of this iconic campaign has been to portray Woods' great judgment as being the sauce that makes Woods so special and, by association, what makes Accenture so special." Ross: "In a real and material way, Woods has let down the people at Accenture, who not only paid him a lot of money, but who made a deep brand association with him in the belief that he was [the] person he claimed to be and who they -- and we -- thought he was" (TVWEEK.com, 12/14).

THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG? With Accenture's announcement and Gillette planning to scale back ads featuring Woods, Global Sports Exec VP Robert Tuchman predicted that "more sponsors will 'jump ship' this week." Tuchman: "There just comes a breaking point. He had this wholesome brand image. That's gone forever" (USA TODAY, 12/14). Rovell: "This is the first kind of blow to Brand Tiger in terms of the business world" ("Today," NBC, 12/14). In DC, Tim Lemke noted the loss of Accenture "suggests that Woods has lost his luster in at least one section of the corporate world." Meanwhile, ads featuring Woods "have been scarce in recent days, but it's hard to know the reasons why, as he never had much of a presence on TV this time of year" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 12/13).

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