I was going to pass on commenting about the whole Tiger Woods saga, but then a posting Tigers Tarnished Brand by William Arruda over at The Personal Branding Blog prompted me to comment and captured what I have been considering, so I thought I would share it too.
Here is what I had to say:
Certainly Tigers reputation has been affected by all this, his approval rating is falling faster than Obama's! What really amazed me was the initial handling of the whole event by Tiger's management agency IMG – really poor PR work.
But some of his key sponsors are standng by him – Tag Heur has said that his personal life is none of their business – so they are making the distinction between his professional and personal brand.
Gillette has respected his time to be with his family and taken him out of upcomng campaigns but they have not dropped him. Nike is being incredibly strong in their stance for Tiger – they have a massive investment in him and likely figure this is going to go away eventually.
Tigers winning brand is perhaps too hard to take a step away from. Accenture's decision is more understandable given their target market – but Gillette and Nike in particular appeal to average Joe Public, who wants to be associated with winners. The same people who have embraced Michael Vick again (unless you are a dog lover), still pay to see Kobe Bryant and voted for Bill Clinton.
The big difference with Tiger is that his personal brand was so managed and in some ways staged that when there was a crack everyone wanted to see how deep and wide they could push this – human nature is still to celebrate the fallen idol – the bigger they are the harder they fall is the saying.
Also can you really see the PGA walking away from the draw of Tiger? He has increased sponsorship investment 4 times, viewing figures for golf when he was away injured dropped by an incredible 50%. That revenue effect is hard to ignore.
We will see him back, probably initially on the almost mandatory couch with Oprah or someone else, finally telling his side of the story.
As for Tiger – the really big question is how long can he stay away from winning. There is the claim that Woods motivation for playing golf is the #18 (see previous blog post and video). It's not the number of majors he strives to win more of, but the fact that the perfect golf score is 18. For someone that driven it is going to be hard to stay away – as much as it is for the brands that associate with such a mindset.
Just my toonies worth.