SBD/November 28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Tiger Woods Making A Marketing Comeback Two Years After Scandal

Woods' Rolex sponsorship is one sign that effect of scandal has subsided
After two years of "injuries, lackluster play and damage control,” Tiger Woods now appears to be “turning a professional corner,” according to Ken Belson on the N.Y. TIMES. Woods this year has signed new sponsorship deals with Rolex and sports nutrition start-up Fuse Science, which will place its name on his golf bag beginning with this week’s Chevron World Challenge. Woods’ deal with Fuse also gives him “an undisclosed stake in the company, which has about a $40 million market capitalization and little brand recognition.” A golf agent and marketing experts said that the Rolex sponsorship is “worth far less than Woods used to command.” Yet the new deals are “a sign that the scandal’s effect has subsided and that Woods is slowly regaining the form that made him the world’s wealthiest and most recognizable athlete.” Baker Street Advertising Exec VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said, “Internationally, he’s been forgiven more quickly. It’s a good time to buy Tiger in that sense.” Fuse CEO Adam Adler said that the company “would start an e-commerce site this year,” and the product “will be sold everywhere” in the first quarter of next year. Woods said Fuse’s awareness “is not quite there yet, but that’s where I can explain it to people.” Woods: “What’s exciting here is getting in on the ground floor.” Woods said that “numerous companies had approached him about sponsorship deals.” Woods: “There really isn’t anything else out there like this, how the electrolytes get in to your system in 90 seconds.” Woods had scientists “confirm the efficacy of the gel product.” He “declined to say what he would do to promote the company.” He said that he “was in no hurry to sign any other sponsorship deals” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25). Golf Channel's Gary Williams called Woods’ marketability "distressed." Williams: "The reality is that five years ago the idea this guy would be doing some type of advertisement or have a partnership with a Japanese pain balm medication is ludicrous. That’s the reality of his life right now” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 11/28).

TIGER TV
: DAILY VARIETY’s Michael Ventre noted “many would say Woods has taken the business of televised golf with him down into the bunker.” Though the sport's core audience of “upscale men 35-64 remains substantial (and an attractive one for high-end advertisers), golf has lost a big chunk of the more casual viewers, including women, who would tune in only to see Woods in action.” Woods' popularity was “so singular that it's difficult to see any player able to pick up his mantle.” Former Oakland Tribune columnist Art Spander said, “Rory McIlroy seems like a good kid, with some charisma. But I don't think Americans will follow him like they do Tiger." Ventre noted the PGA Tour in September announced it “had agreed to contract extensions with NBC and Golf Channel (both owned by Comcast) and CBS that last until 2021, despite Woods' uncertain future.” While terms of the deals were not disclosed, sources said that the tour “managed to gain increases over its existing deals.” A “key reason for that may be due to the meteoric rise in sports rights.” PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int’l Affairs Ty Votaw said that the tour “operates from a different business model than most sports, with a unique major sponsorship mix that includes financial institutions, insurance companies, automakers, pharmaceutical firms and golf equipment producers” (VARIETY.com, 11/26).
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