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Apr 14, 2019

Tiger's Masters win a major boost for the brands still with him

'Nike has always played the lottery': Why the apparel maker has stuck with Tiger Woods

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Tiger Woods’s improbable Masters victory will reward the few companies that stuck with him through his struggles, along with the ones that joined him when he was near the low point of his career.

The 43-year-old won his fifth Masters title on Sunday by one stroke. It’s his first major victory in over a decade and just his second PGA Tour victory in more than five years.

It’s also a win for his sponsors. During the final-round telecast, when he made a late charge, he generated more than US$23.6 million in exposure for various corporate partners, according to sponsorship analytics firm Apex Marketing Group. Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing executive at Baker Street Advertising, cited Woods’s ability to bring even casual fans to their televisions.

“He moves the needle like no other golfer does or ever has done,” Dorfman said, comparing Woods’s legendary status to that of Michael Jordan. “Nobody can do what he does and it’s amazing he’s been able to do it for as long as he has.”

Woods’s return to the center of golf’s biggest stage will probably drive added interest in pro golf for a while and generate even more attention for his corporate partners. It will also renew debate over whether a healthy Woods can regain the dominance of his early career, when he single-handedly boosted golf’s status around the world.

Woods now has 15 major titles, three shy of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18.

In the moments after Woods’s final putt on Sunday, longtime sponsor Nike Inc. (NKE.N) released a video congratulating him on the feat, and highlighting his push to pass Nicklaus. The video uses audio from a 3-year-old Woods listing his golf aspirations.

“To think a 43-year-old who has experienced every high and every low, and has just won his 15th major, is chasing the same dream as a 3-year-old,” the video says.

The Ties That Bind

No company is more closely associated with Woods than Nike, which signed him when he turned pro back in 1996 and built its golf business around his stardom. Woods was once making US$30 million a year from Nike, according to Forbes, but in 2016 the company announced it would stop making golf clubs, balls and bags. Nike is still Woods’s apparel partner -- the red Nike shirt he wore on Sunday is a familiar sight to most fans -- but over the past few years Woods has had to look elsewhere for ball and club partners.

Nike shares rose as much as 1.2 per cent to US$87.24 in New York trading Monday. The effect extended to golf brands unconnected to Woods: Callaway Golf Co. gained as much as 4.1 per cent, while Titleist parent Acushnet Holdings Corp. was up as much as 4.2 per cent.

 

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Tiger Woods celebrates after he won the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

During a decade when Woods’s life was marred by marital trouble, substance abuse, multiple surgeries and inconsistent play, many of the other brands associated with the former star either dropped him outright or failed to renew their partnerships. They included AT&T Inc., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette, General Motors Co.’s Buick and watchmaker Tag Heuer.

In their place is a new stable of partners. Monster Energy has been branding Woods’s bag since 2016. TaylorMade is now his club sponsor; Bridgestone Corp. makes his golf balls. There are also smaller deals with Hero MotoCorp, an Indian motorcycle maker, and Kowa, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. Several of them sought to capitalize on the moment, with Monster Energy musing what a tiger’s favored color might be.

Woods carried 13 TaylorMade clubs on Sunday, according to Chief Executive Officer David Abeles. While the Masters win is great for the golf business overall, and it’s good for sales when fans see Woods win tournaments using TaylorMade clubs, Woods has helped the privately owned brand in another major way.

“He’s been heavily involved in our research and development functions, and heavily involved in our product creation,” Abeles said. “He has one of the most incredible perspectives on product technology of any athlete we’ve ever worked with.”

Abeles, who declined to provide financial details of the agreement with Woods, said TaylorMade has already seen a boost in interest following the Masters. Phone volume on Monday morning was three times heavier than it was last week, and website traffic after the Masters was double what it was after the tournament last year.

SPONSORS NOW:

-Nike -- apparel only (kept relationship)

-Upper Deck -- sports memorabilia (kept relationship)

-Bridgestone Golf -- golf balls since 2016, replacing Nike

-TaylorMade -- clubs since 2017, replacing Nike

-Monster Energy -- golf bag sponsor, since 2016

-Kowa -- Japanese pain reliever, since 2011, first endorsement after scandal

-Hero -- India motorcycles, since 2014

-Full Swing -- golf simulator, since 2015

SPONSORS IN 2008:

-Nike -- clothes and equipment; megadeal started in 1996

-Upper Deck -- since 2001

-AT&T, Accenture, Gillette, Gatorade -- all dropped him after scandal

-EA Sports -- Tiger video game ended a few years after scandal

-Buick/GM -- ended in 2008, after his last major but before scandal

-TLC Laser Eyes -- firm filed for bankruptcy in 2009

-Tag Heuer -- expired in 2011

During Sunday’s final round telecast on CBS, Woods’s prominent placement was a boon to many of those brands. Nike saw US$22.5 million in exposure, according to Apex. Monster received US$960,000, while Bridgestone saw US$134,000. Those numbers will increase as highlights and print media push images of Woods’s win across the globe. They’ll also jump at later tournaments that receive a Woods boost in viewership and attention.

At the height of his career, Woods was making US$110 million per year as the world’s highest paid athlete, including that US$30 million from Nike, according to Forbes. Last year the magazine reported his earnings as US$43.3 million.

For now, Woods sounded bewildered at his resurrection to top-dog status.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Woods said after the win. “It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired.”