SBD/Issue 64/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Tiger On Hiatus: Gillette Phasing Woods Out, Others Offer Support

Gillette Says Phasing Out Of Woods A Way
Of "Helping Him To Take A Lower Profile"
Gillette spokesperson Damon Jones indicated that Tiger Woods "will be phased out from Gillette's television and print advertising" after stating he is taking an indefinite break from golf, according to Emily Fredrix of the AP. Gillette also will distance itself from Woods at "public appearances and other efforts linking the two entities together." Jones said, "This is supporting his desire to step out of the public eye and we're going to support him by helping him to take a lower profile." Jones said that "as any ads featuring Woods expire, they will not be renewed."  However, he added that "that did not mean the company was severing its ties with Woods." Nielsen has indicated that Woods "hasn't been seen in a prime-time television commercial since a Gillette spot" on November 29. Jones said that "that was because golf is currently in its offseason, so the company is promoting new products like Gillette Fusion MVP with football and baseball stars instead, because those seasons are more current" (AP, 12/12). Gillette Communications Dir Mike Norton said that displays that "already feature Woods's image in retail stores may be affected as well," but that the company "will continue using other sporting stars in its 'Champions' campaign." Norton: "The exposure of Tiger in the ads will be limited, but beyond that, if he was the focus of the ad, then we won't be using that ad" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/13).

COLLECT CALL: In N.Y., Larry McShane reported AT&T, which "signed a deal with Woods earlier this year to put its logo on his golf bag," is "reconsidering its ties" to Woods. After Woods Friday announced his break from competition, AT&T "issued a statement offering their backing -- to a point." AT&T spokesperson Susan Bean: "We support Tiger's decision and our thoughts will be with him and his family. We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/13). Tiger Woods Foundation President & CEO Greg McLaughlin, whose organization benefits from the PGA Tour AT&T National event, Saturday said that he has "spoken with representatives of AT&T, and the company will serve as the title sponsor of next July's tournament" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/13). GOLF.com's David Dusek noted AT&T "doesn't use Woods in advertising or feature him on its Web site." Meanwhile, even if AT&T and Woods parted ways, the company "would still have significant ties to golf." In addition to title sponsoring the AT&T National, the company is the title sponsor of the PGA Tour AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (GOLF.com, 12/12). Dusek today wonders, "This holiday season, will AT&T's association with Woods send holiday shoppers (especially women) to Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile for their cell phones? Possibly. You can bet AT&T will be looking hard for a negative Tiger effect" (GOLF.com, 12/14).

Tag Heuer Says Woods' Personal
Life Has No Bearing On Sponsorship
OTHER SPONSORS STAND BY THEIR MAN: Watch manufacturer Tag Heuer said that it will "continue its association" with Woods. Tag Heuer spokesperson Mariam Sylla today said that the sponsorship is "unchanged because Woods remains the world's best golfer and Tag Heuer does not care about his private life" (AP, 12/14). Electronic Arts, which produces the "Tiger Woods PGA Tour" franchise of videogames, said that its strategy "remains unchanged." The game's next edition "comes out in six months" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/14). Meanwhile, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott Saturday said that discussions "would be held this week about whether to continue running a Pac-10 TV ad that features Woods, who played at Stanford." The ad is "one in a series featuring Pac-10 athletes and coaches." Scott: "We're fortunate to have six rotations. ... We'll continue to rotate and have further discussions" (L.A. TIMES, 12/13).

HOW LONG CAN HE SIT OUT? One agent said of the impact of Woods' indefinite break from competition on his sponsorship deals, "I'm guessing what Woods' people are thinking right now is, 'How long can we let him sit out so that when he comes back he still preserves the relationships?' His endorsements are all based on playing, but sponsors might not be so quick to exercise that clause. They know the man we're talking about, how he's done unthinkable things. They won't be so quick to quit on him" (GOLFWEEK.com, 12/11). Celebrity Marketing Inc. President Cleon Daskalakis said Woods' sponsors "know they need to downplay the relationship, but they also know he could return to where he was." Daskalakis: "So you don't want to walk away from him now, then have to compete against him, or try and re-sign him in a few years" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/13). Sports Business Group President David Carter: "You become a major part of the story if you terminate his contract right now, and I'm not sure that's something that you want. Instead you may be better off attempting to pull a Tiger Woods -- keep quiet as long as you can and hope another scandal breaks out to replace it." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Emily Steel notes pulling Woods from ads "doesn't necessarily terminate a company's official pact with the golfer, a step that also could carry risks should the scandal blow over and Mr. Woods return to his game" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/14). But CNBC's Darren Rovell said Woods' hiatus "alleviates some of the pressure from the sponsors," as they now can "essentially walk away" from their agreements. Rovell: "If Tiger Woods is not playing, they are not going to have marketing around him. So, it makes it a little bit more comfortable" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 12/12).

Nike Has Reiterated Its Full Support Of Woods
RISKY BUSINESS: Nike has reiterated its stance behind Woods, issuing a statement that "he and his family have Nike's full support" (Mult., 12/12). Nike Chair Phil Knight said there is "always a risk" when companies build brands around athletes, as Nike Golf has done around Woods. Knight: "One of the things we always try to do when we have a big endorsement is check out the character and the pattern of the individual. But you're not going to get it right all the time." Knight added of Woods, "Obviously, he was one we checked out and he came out clean, and I think he's been really great. When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/14 issue).

INSIDE TEAM TIGER: NBC's Lester Holt yesterday asked, "Any sense of what's going on behind the scenes with Team Tiger tonight?" Rovell: "Mark Steinberg, Tiger's agent, said they're working for solution-oriented dialogue, and that basically means in agent-speak they're trying to save these deals. But ultimately, it's going to come down to the news cycle. How much more is out there?" ("Nightly News," NBC, 12/13). Steinberg Friday issued a statement that read, "As his agent and friend, I stand fully behind Tiger and support his decision wholeheartedly. What Tiger and his family need now is time away and private space so that they can recover from all that's happened and try to restore some well-being to their lives. The entirety of someone's life is more important than just a professional career. What matters most is a young family that is trying to cope with difficult life issues in a secluded and caring way. Whenever Tiger may return to the game should be on the family's terms alone. Although there has been considerable inquiry about Tiger's sponsorships, it would be both premature and inappropriate to comment on the status of specific business relationships. Suffice it to say, we have had thoughtful conversations and his sponsors have been open to a solution-oriented dialogue. Of course, each sponsor has unique considerations and ultimately the decisions they make we would fully understand and accept" (THE DAILY).

CAUGHT UNAWARE: The Daily Beast columnist Gerald Posner said Steinberg is "furious" because IMG was "caught flat-footed, and especially shocked at the trail of reckless evidence" from Woods' personal life. Posner: "They are shocked also by the number of extramarital affairs" ("Today," NBC, 12/14).

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