SBD/Issue 76/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

AT&T Latest To End Endorsement Contract With Tiger Woods

Woods No Longer Featured
On AT&T National Web Site
AT&T "has had enough of the Tiger Woods scandal," as the company Thursday ended its endorsement contract with the golfer, according to Eric Torbenson of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The move "adds another big name to a roster of companies that have distanced themselves from Woods following his admission of marital infidelity." Woods had "put an AT&T logo on his golf bag" as part of an agreement reached in February (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/1). AT&T spokesperson Michael Coe said the company is "ending our sponsorship agreement with Tiger Woods and wish him well in the future." IMG Global Managing Dir of Golf Mark Steinberg, who reps Woods, and Woods' publicist Glenn Greenspan declined comment (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/31). In N.Y., Ken Belson reported AT&T said that it will "continue to sponsor" the AT&T National, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw said that Woods' indefinite absence from pro golf "means that he will not host the event this year." Meanwhile, AT&T's sponsorship of Tiger Jam, an "annual charity event held in Las Vegas to raise money for the Tiger Woods Foundation, has expired" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/1). Woods is no longer featured on the AT&T National Web site (THE DAILY). 

BRAND AWARENESS: The N.Y. TIMES' Belson noted AT&T, which had "earlier said it was evaluating its relationship with Woods," was "focused on using him to boost its brand." Marketing experts said that using Woods in this way "made it easier to justify cutting ties when his reputation took a hit." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard: "These are companies affiliated with him for things not having to do with his core ability." Swangard said sponsors like AT&T "rely on the larger brand equity, the attributes beyond Tiger's phenomenal athletic talent" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/1). UCF DeVos Sport Business Management Program Associate Dir Bill Sutton said that the Woods scandal has "made him an unattractive pitchman for companies ... using him to promote 'a product related to his lifestyle.'" But Sutton added that he "expects sports companies will remain with Woods." Sutton: "Nike's got warehouses full of golf clubs. Upper Deck has tons of autographed items from him. They're not going to give up on him" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/1).

Chevron Could Be Next Sponsor 
To Cut Ties With Woods
NOT AS VISIBLE: CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote while AT&T's sponsorship was "not as visible as most -- Woods wasn't even on AT&T's Web site -- it was quite comprehensive." It is "not likely" Woods' golf bag will be left blank, and Golf.com's David Dusek has already predicted that Nike will be "willing to slap its logo there." Meanwhile, if there is a "natural next sponsor to go, it's likely Chevron, which is in a similar situation in terms of having a less visible role with Woods, but a more active role" with his foundation (CNBC.com, 12/31). Engage Marketing President Kevin Adler: "There is less fallout for AT&T because there is less public awareness of Tiger's relationship with AT&T. You couldn't walk through an airport without seeing a Tag or Accenture ad with Tiger." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Suzanne Vranica cited sources as saying that AT&T's contract with Woods gave the company the "right to use [Woods] in its ads," though AT&T "hasn't done so." The sources added that the contract gave AT&T the right to have Woods "conduct golf clinics for its customers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/2).

TOURNEY TALK: Sports business writer Tim Lemke wrote AT&T retaining its sponsorship of the AT&T National "makes perfect sense." By sponsoring a tournament, AT&T "gets to do a lot of corporate hospitality and its name and logo are emblazoned everywhere, regardless of whether Woods is even present." AT&T's contract with Woods "may have had included a morality clause, giving AT&T the right to get out," but it is "unclear on what grounds AT&T could back out of the tournament deal" (TIMLEMKESPORTS.com, 12/31). Brandywine Conference & Visitors Bureau Exec Dir Tore Fiore said of the announcement Woods will not host this year's AT&T National at the Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania, "The hotels in the area ... have already had bookings, not only on the domestic level but on the international level. Does it put a damper on it? Yeah." Fiore added that tourism officials "plan to meet for a second time" this week with the Tiger Woods Foundation to "discuss how to market the event 'sans' Tiger" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/1).

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