The Tiger Woods brand will be just fine

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Tiger Woods might be in a world of hurt, but his brand is going to be just fine.  For a famous athlete, he has a bland, anonymous public persona.  His image is built purely on sports performance and not much else.  His self-described “transgression” has not tarnished his image because, well, he lacks one.

It would have been a different story if:

  • He had done something to tarnish his image as an athlete, like, say, smoke crack or take steroids.  Putting his health at risk would have been in greater conflict with his brand as an athlete than cheating on his wife because his entire public persona is wrapped up in his success as a golfer.
  • His behavior had alienated the middle-class Americans that corporate sponsors worry about.  But marital infidelity is too common among mainstream society to tarnish his appeal.  Contrast his situation with the scandal that resulted from Michael Vick’s involvement in illegal dog fighting.  It’s not so much the illegality of dog fighting that turned Vick into a pariah to corporate sponsors — but rather middle-class America’s perception of dog fighting as repulsive, fringe behavior.  Chances are the target demographic for Accenture (a former employer of mine) or Nike know someone personally who has had an affair.  I doubt that few, if anyone, in that demographic know someone personally involved in dog fighting.
  • He was a female athlete.  An unspoken “boys will be boys” attitude prevails when it comes to celebrities misbehaving, a standard that does not apply to women.  How marketable do you think the married Danica Patrick would be if a story broke that she was cheating on her husband, replete with saucy texts to guys and hush-hush voice mails to alleged lovers? Do you think Dara Torres, a mom and successful Olympic swimmer, could have survived a revelation about marital infidelity during the 2008 Summer Olympics?

Bottom line: Tiger Woods the brand will be just fine because Tiger Woods did nothing to hurt Tiger Woods the athlete.

6 thoughts on “The Tiger Woods brand will be just fine

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  3. Dave

    I\’m not sure that Tigers \”marketability\” hasn\’t already been irreversibly tarnished. One of the aspirational attributes of Brand Tiger is/was the clean-cut, nice guy aspect. Sure he is a major drawcard and will probably command bigger audiences now, but for the wrong reasons.

    Whilst his universal recognizably is undoubted, it\’s going to be the associated message that he represents to sponsors that is important. Sure infidelity is as common as a sliced drive, but its ubiquity doesn\’t make it any more palatable.

    If you are a sponsor of Tiger going forward, you will be implicitly endorsing his untoward lifestyle and morality. I can\’t see many smart corporates wanting that stigma. The jury\’s out regarding the impact on his sponsorship potential, but I am willing to stick my neck out and forecast that Tiger WILL lose some of his sponsors as the contracts come up for renewal.

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  4. A few more days on and it\’s interesting to see how things have developed. Tiger\’s off to hide in the woods and sponsors dropping him like a hot turd. Hmm, not unexpected really.

    Across here in New Zealand, Tigers caddie, Steve Williams is taking a bit of a beating in the media for supposedly \’being in the know\’ about the affairs and aiding and abetting him. Everyone close to Tiger gets tarnished by such selfish actions.

  5. Wayne, it is hard to argue with you in light of Accenture\’s December 13 announcement that it would drop its sponsorship of Tiger Woods. Tiger\’s professional inactively has certainly not helped his marketability in light of more revelations about his personal behavior that have come to light since I wrote my blog post on December 5. His entire brand is wrapped up in his athletic performance. Since he\’s not competing professionally, his drawing card (to marketers) has been neutralized. — David

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