Gillette to limit Woods’ role in its marketing
One of Tiger Woods’ major sponsors won’t feature the world’s
most valuable athlete in its marketing while he takes time off to
repair his personal life.
Gillette’s announcement on Saturday marks the first major
sponsor of the superstar athlete and corporate pitchman to distance
itself from Woods.
“As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support
his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing
programs,” said Gillette, a division of Procter & Gamble.
Other sponsors are mulling their options and trying to gauge the
fallout from the man who has become the face of golf, as he drops
off the circuit for an unspecified period.
AT&T said it was evaluating its relationship with the
golfer. Representatives from Accenture won’t say what its plans are
regarding Woods, whom the consulting firm has used to personify its
claimed attributes of integrity and high performance.
“I think you will see the handful or so of companies that he
has relationships with doing some real soul searching and making
some probably, for them, difficult decisions in the next few
days,” said Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis
Management, in Louisville, Ky.
Late Friday, Woods announced an indefinite leave from golf and
public life to try to rescue his marriage after two weeks of
intense coverage of his infidelity sullied his carefully cultivated
good guy image. The decision and contrite tone of his statement was
seen by marketing experts as a smart step to repairing his public
image. His previous brief and vague statements on the matter were
criticized as insufficient to quell the intense scrutiny and to
lessen the damage from more a dozen women who claim to have had
affairs with him.
“It’s just like your most beautiful fashion brand is being
trashed,” said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of
Journalism and Mass Communication. “I don’t expect Tiger to be the
gold standard anymore, but he’s not going out of business … He’s
too big and too talented to be fired, but he will have significant
declines from what he was.”
Woods, 33, spent 13 years burnishing his personal brand.
His good looks and multiracial heritage gave him broad appeal.
His domination of the game and fist-pumping flair for the dramatic
established his tournament appearances as must-see TV. His work
ethic is admirable. Marketers were drawn to his image as a
clean-cut family man who mourned the death of the father who taught
him the game, doted on his mother and married a former Swedish
model with whom he has two young children.
Woods is the pitchman for brands ranging from AT&T to
Accenture to Nike. His array of endorsements helped him become the
first sports star to earn $1 billion. Michael Jordan, Woods’
closest contemporary, is a distant second. Jordan has accumulated
about $800 million during and after an NBA career that spanned
nearly 20 years, according to Forbes.
Nike, which built a golf business that generates $650 million in
annual revenue around Woods, said late Friday that it supports his
decision. As of late Friday, Accenture no longer had the golfer’s
image on a page on its Web site where it had been as late as
Gatorade, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., said previously that it
supports Woods and said on Saturday it has no updated comment.
Gillette’s decision includes phasing out Woods from its
television and print advertising, and from public appearances and
other efforts linking Woods to the grooming company, Gillette
spokesman Damon Jones said.
“This is supporting his desire to step out of the public eye
and we’re going to support him by helping him to take a lower
profile,” he said.
Gillette, which operates from Boston while parent P&G is
based in Cincinnati, has had a contract with Woods since 2007.
Jones declined to provide further details, including length and
value, of the contract.
Woods hasn’t been seen in a prime-time television commercial
since a Gillette spot on Nov. 29, according to research firm
Jones said that was because golf was in its offseason, and the
company was not severing its ties with Woods. There had been no
upcoming scheduled public appearances for Woods, he said.
He declined to comment on when the company would resume
including Woods in its marketing, and would not say whether that
would be linked with the timing of Woods comeback, when and if he
decides to resume playing golf.