Let's get this out of the way right from the start - I have no official opinion on the recent headlines surrounding Tiger Woods and his personal life. In my opinion, his private life ought to be private. He is a golfer who should be admired for his accomplishments on the golf course. But off the golf course, he's just another human being. I don't condone the activities he's being accused of, but I'm neither a friend nor relative of his and he owes me nothing (other than to put on a good show when he's in a golf tournament I've paid to watch). And it is certainly not my place to judge him - especially when I have no personal knowledge of the real facts.
With that in mind, this post is purely business related - nothing personal here.
From a purely business and marketing standpoint, though, I think there is a real opportunity for one of Tiger's major sponsors to step up and walk away from their relationship with him. So far, all the sponsorship news has revolved around the universal support Tiger has received from his business partners. Whether it be Nike, Gatorade, Accenture, AT&T, NetJets or any of the others, they have all come out to say that they are standing by Tiger in this crazy time in his life.
Makes sense at a macro level. I mean, regardless of how many 'transgressions' Tiger has, he will always be a huge star. And, it may be that, as Seth Meyers put it on Saturday Night Live, Woods' sponsors sticking with him is "a gesture that only means one thing -- women don't watch golf."
But, as the bad news keeps piling on and as more and more women come out with their Tiger affair allegations, the time may come where it is going to be harder and harder for the sponsors to stay the course.
That is why there are huge benefits to whichever sponsor decides to cut to the chase, break the party lines, and publicly walk away from Tiger right now. Think about the press they would get, the gratitude they would get from women and pro-family activists everywhere. Even if every other sponsor followed them, the first one to break the ranks would derive the vast majority of the benefits of doing so.
As far as I can tell, Tiger has about 11 major sponsors:
- Electronic Arts
- TLC Vision
- TAG Heuer
- Upper Deck
- Golf Digest
Of those, here are my top picks for who would get the most benefit by jumping off the Tiger Train(wreck):
- AT&T: First of all, I didn't even know Tiger was sponsored by them until I saw it on his website. Plus, phones are not a 'male' thing and AT&T can use all the positive news it can get right now. And if Verizon gets the iPhone next year, fuhgetaboudit! Publicly drop Tiger and millions of women may automatically forgive all their AT&T dropped calls...
- TLC Vision: A Laser Eye center? Really? They ought to jump all over this (and save millions in unnecessary sponsorship dollars all at the same time!)
- Gillette: The "Best a Man Can Get" campaign is starting to get a bit stale anyways. And the way it's been set up it is logical to rotate in new sports stars every now and then. Why do men shave anyways? To look good for women... And if the women have a preference on what razor we use, we're probably going to listen! Not to mention the halo effect to P&G...
So, that's it. Again, nothing personal for or against Tiger. Just seems like the opportunity is there for someone to step up, do something unexpected, and reap the benefits...