Sponsors give Woods cold shoulder

NEW YORK: Tiger Woods, one of the hottest marketing symbols on the planet, is getting the cold shoulder on television where ads featuring the golfing star have disappeared since news broke of his philandering.

Nielsen, the New York-based consumer research company, said the once ubiquitous Woods had not appeared in a prime-time TV commercial since a November 29 Gillette ad.

That was two days after his image went into freefall with a car accident outside his Florida home and subsequent revelations of a marital crisis over his alleged affairs with a string of women.

The last Gillette spot ran during NBC’s much-watched “Football Night in America” and had run a total of eight times in November, all during football telecasts on NBC and “Monday Night Countdown” on ESPN, a Nielsen spokesman told AFP. Since then, Woods has not been seen in public. The only footage of the golfer has been in salacious media coverage of his sex life. Sponsorship made Woods sport’s first billionaire. He earns an estimated $110 million annually from endorsements and prize money, and as long as he remains a top talent at tournaments, sponsors are unlikely to drop Woods entirely. But his stock is visibly falling. Sports drinks giant Gatorade has cancelled its contract with Woods, although it says this was planned before the scandal erupted.
Nike, his biggest sponsor, last week said it was standing by Woods. However, in a possible sign of friction, the golfer was reported by celebrity news site TMZ to be axing his appearance as best man at the wedding of his Nike Sales representative. “Tiger Woods is ‘the face of Nike golf,’” TMZ said in its report. “Whether or not allegations about mistresses are true, Tiger’s image is tarnished.” Evidence of that tarnished image is found in the latest ranking from the Davie Brown Index, which measures celebrities’ standing with consumers. Woods dropped from sixth to 24th in the more than 2,800-strong DBI database, Chris Anderson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles based agency, told AFP. In Britain, leading golf agent Andrew Chandler said Woods, winner of 14 majors, could still escape the public relations disaster. “It will take time to repair, but I think it’s doable. Time is a great healer,” Chandler said, comparing Woods’ travails to a 2004 scandal involving England football superstar David Beckham. “I don’t think Tiger will ever be able to be as private as he was, though. He’s got to be more accessible from now on and so become a little bit more real. Beckham is the only one I can liken Woods to. He went through pretty much the same thing and it passed in about nine months,” said Chandler. “Now he’s a super-hero again who might single-handedly bring the World Cup to England.

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