SBJ/November 26 - December 2, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Woods’ Nike deal may grow

Tiger Woods' contract with Nike, believed to be the richest endorsement deal in sports, might be getting even bigger.

Woods has been secretly testing Nike's new golf clubs in recent months, according to a source. Woods has historically played Titleist clubs on tour under a flexible, pay-per-play deal.

Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf, and Alastair Johnston, president of the international division of IMG, which represents the golfer, wouldn't comment on whether Woods was trying out the clubs.

"When and if he does something with clubs, it would mean another renegotiation," said Johnston, who oversees IMG's golf division. If the Nike contract is renegotiated to include Woods playing the clubs, the deal would likely increase in value, Johnston added.

In September 2000, Woods signed a five-year deal with the company. That deal was a renegotiation of a contract that had expanded his Nike endorsement to include use of Nike's golf ball, Johnston said.

That deal was widely reported to be valued at $100 million, a figure that dwarfed any previous sports-related equipment endorsement deal. Nike's Wood said the $100 million figure was not accurate, but wouldn't reveal the deal's value. He did acknowledge the deal was among the largest endorsement pacts in sports history.

"If Tiger makes a decision to change his equipment, people will find out when it happens," Wood said. "And he will do it because he thinks it will improve his game."

Nike has publicly indicated that it plans to enter the golf club market next year but has not revealed details. "What we will deliver initially will be announced in the next month," Wood said.

Although Wood was mum on Nike's dealings with Woods, he said the company is in talks with other professional players about using the new clubs. "This is the time of year when players change equipment," Wood said.

Industry experts said golfers test new equipment in late fall and early winter because most golf equipment endorsement deals expire at the end of the calendar year.

Wood said the company has recently signed young golfer Bryce Molder and PGA Tour player Stewart Cink and is talking to other players. David Duval was the first major golfer to play the clubs.

"We are not finished [signing players], but the process of getting people into new product takes time," Wood said. It is difficult to get top golfers to change equipment they have been playing with, and they will only do it after testing it and being sure it will improve their game, he said.

"Certainly no [top golfers] play equipment for free," Wood said. "When you are talking about the top 50 players in the world ... because the purses are so high, it is less common these days for people to change just for money."

Johnston said agents at IMG and Nike are always in discussions about Woods. But formal negotiations to include a club deal have not yet begun.

"If there is going to be a renegotiation, it will be Tiger's call," Johnston said.

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