« Will you give cash as a gift this holiday season? | Main | Time to test your tax knowledge »

December 08, 2021

How long will Tiger's sponsors stand by his side?

When Tiger Woods’ alleged extra-marital affairs came to light two weeks ago, the question wasn’t “Goodness, is it true?” – it was “Oh boy, what’s next?”

Since then, as might have been expected, a long line of supposed Tiger mistresses have churned their way across front pages, each rumoured link to the golfer more sordid than the last.

And who could blame them? When a chink was exposed in Tiger’s armour, it quickly became the perfect avenue for fame-hungry women across the country to step forward and get in on the action; hostesses, $8-an-hour waitresses, even porn stars have now claimed to have held transgressions with Woods.

But, perhaps remarkably, Tiger’s lucrative sponsorships have remained in tact despite the steamy allegations.

Of his annual US$100-million endorsement deals – with, among others, Nike, American Express and Gillette – near every company has stood by its man, denouncing the tabloid gossip as “private matters” that won’t sway their corporate relationship.

Quietly, though, one wonders two things: 1) is that really the case, and 2) with each day producing a more outrageous whack at the golfer’s image, will that stance endure?

Just today, in fact, Tiger’s brand name drink was discontinued by Gatorade. Only hours before, a crippling affair/cover-up story was published in the U.K.’s Daily Mail  – a story alleging Woods was caught in a tryst with a Florida waitress and struck a deal to bury the issue by appearing on the August, 2007, cover of Men’s Fitness, a magazine under the same ownership as the tabloid that uncovered the assignation.

Are the two events coincidence? Perhaps, yeah. PepsiCo, on Gatorade’s behalf, said the move to drop Tiger’s drink has had nothing to do with recent events. Still, even the most ardent Woods defender has to admit the timing of the move is at least fishy.

When it boils down to it, Tiger has been able to avoid mass sponsorship recoil because his matters are considered private. He is not likely to suffer the fate of Kobe Bryant who, in 2003, was said to have lost as much as $50-million in endorsement deals in the wake of his rape accusation at a Colorado hotel.

Bryant’s case – because of the criminal element – was classified as a public issue, giving his sponsors just cause to dump the superstar. Woods’ endorsers, despite having the golfer’s image become at least temporarily as toxic as Kobe’s circa '03, don’t have the same luxury.

They will hold onto him for perception’s sake: a corporate bond made stronger by the trials of adversity.

But if more dirt, no matter the degree of truth, comes out on Tiger, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that union will last.

(*Update: if you don't think the anti-Tiger movement is rapidly progressing ... see this ... and this.)

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...