Tiger Woods' No.1 status will help 'humanise' his brand
Tiger Woods’ return to the top of the world rankings for the first time since 2010 is a “milestone” in the push to rehabilitate his tainted brand but it is not enough alone to tempt sponsors into backing him once again, sponsorship experts say.
The champion has replaced rival Rory Mcllroy at the top of the golfing ladder following his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last night (25 March).
It completes a three-year comeback for Woods following his admittance to several affairs that cost him his marriage and clean-cut image. The revelations also cost the athlete several high-profile sponsorship deals with brands including PepsiCo and Gillette.
Woods rebuffed suggestions his win signalled he was back to his best, adding “it was a by-product of hard work, patience and getting back to playing golf tournaments”.
Industry experts say the 14-time golf major winner’s reluctance to get carried away with the win is likely to be reflected by potential backers who will wait to see whether he wins next month’s Masters tournament before making a move.
Dom Curran, deputy managing director at Synergy Sponsorship, adds: “I still think it will take corporate America sometime to get over the scandal of three years ago. A lot of brands got burned as a result so I don’t think they’ll jump in with Woods anytime soon. There’s no doubt him moving back to world number one is a milestone in his brand rehabilitation but it will influence the more consumer-facing brands than the corporate ones who can bring more humour and humanity to his brand now he’s back on top.
“Woods becoming number one again after so long just adds to the drama of his story and if he continues in his run of form it will be hard for some brands to resist not wanting to be a part of such a dramatic comeback.”
Nike, which has stuck by Woods during this period, was the first of his sponsors to congratulate the win with an advert featuring the athlete and the caption ‘Winning Takes Care of Everything. Tiger Woods, World #1’(see pic). The brand has been using the athlete more prominently in its advertising in recent months with creative that paints him in a more humorous and laid-back light. Earlier this year, he fronted an advert that saw him jokingly compete with fellow Nike ambassador Mcllroy on the driving range (see above).
Mike Mainwaring, group director at Generate Sponsorship, says potential backers “willing to take a risk” on Woods could look to replicate Nike’s strategy in future as he “will never have the absolute clean cut image that he had previously”. Major success, however could change that.
He adds: “This doesn’t mean there are no lucrative deals out there for him. He might struggle to pick up the big corporate sponsors of this world but if he stays number one for a prolonged period of time and keeps winning tournaments then I’d be surprised if there wasn’t any interest from FMCG brands looking to partner with someone with an edge to them.”