There’s no need to rehash the Tiger Woods saga of the last two weeks — unless you’ve been living under a rock since Thanksgiving, you know about the golf pro’s transgressions that have been causing a media circus for 14 days and counting.
But since we’re all about the money here, I will rehash what’s been going on with Woods’ sponsors. Early on in Tigergate, a handful of his sponsors including Nike, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette and videogame maker EA Sports came out with statements of support for Woods and said their thoughts were with his family.
But then came the parade of mistresses. At last count there were at least seven but that still appears to be a growing figure. And along with that, sponsors have fallen silent. Well, all except for PepsiCo, which claims its recent decision to drop a Gatorade product named for Wood’s wasn’t related to the scandal.
I talked to Baltimore ad firm TBC‘s Howe Burch this week about the potential sponsor fallout from Tigergate and he says this is only the beginning. Burch takes issue with those who say Woods’ transgressions have made him seem more human.
“I find that to be a misguided perspective on the whole thing,” said Burch, a former marketing executive with Fila and Reebok. “Tiger was affiliated with big blue chip brands and any brand that is successful is built on a foundation of trust…Tiger has violated their trust. They did not sign up for someone who is duplicitous.”
Burch said other examples this year like Michael Phelps getting caught smoking pot or Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino admitting to an affair don’t even come close to the damage Woods is causing to his once-untouchable image.
“[Phelps] certainly violated that trust with his sponsors but not nearly to the egregious extent that Tiger did,” he said. “Tiger has been unfaithful but not as a single instance. There’s a pattern here of purportedly nine or 10 girlfriends over 10 years marriage. It’s not as if he made a mistake — the guy has…violated his marriage vows. I think that’s a lot more sacred than a 23-year-old kid who gets caught doing what a lot of other 23-year-old kids do.”
USA Today reported this week that no commercials featuring Woods have appeared on prime-time TV — cable or broadcast — since two days after Woods’ accident. The last commercial was a 30-second Gillette spot featuring Woods and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and aired during NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Before the incident, that commercial had aired eight times in November alone.
Burch also noted the argument can be made that Woods’ sponsors who make men’s products will stick by the golfer because their market may not find his transgressions as offensive as others. However, he said, guess who does most of the shopping for men? Yup — women.
“My wife was a big Tiger fan and she is absolutely disgusted by his behavior and doesn’t want to have anything to do with him or a brand he represents,” Burch said. “I think people need to be more aware it’s not just men who need to be considered.”