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March 22, 2022

Tiger's return validates sponsors that stood by him

Loyalty pays.

Or, make that “loyalty will pay,” as a minority group of sponsors that stood by the world’s most derided golfer look set to cash in on a wave of publicity that’ll surely reward their steadfast allegiance.

Yes, Tiger Woods is back, and the choice to end his hiatus at next month’s Masters – golf’s most storied and popular tournament – is an appropriate decision when you consider his well-publicized, high-profile fall from grace these past four months.

Yet while the pressure is surely on Tiger to play well at Augusta National, it may be totally removed for the sponsors who stayed more devoted to the golfer than he did his own wife.

Nike and Electronic Arts, the companies left standing in the Tiger Rubble that features departed sponsors Accenture, Gatorade and AT&T, have said in written statements they “look forward” to Woods’ return next month. They must be downplaying their excitement.

Already the highest-rated golf tournament of the year, the Masters are sure to be must-see TV this April when its audience changes from “old, mostly white dudes” to “old, mostly white dudes, house wives, bankers, church reverends and everyone else.”

Just as everyone had an opinion on Tiger’s downfall, everyone will too have an investment – whether supportive or not – in his return. Anyone who tells you they’re not at least a bit curious to see him back on the course, even if it’s just to see whether Elin’s there or he gets booed or not, is probably lying.

“This is going to be a heavily photographed, heavily videotaped, heavily YouTubed appearance,” Rick Burton, a sports marketing professor at Syracuse University, told the Associated Press about the Masters. “Tiger’s Nike hat, Nike shirt and Nike ball are all going to get a lot of visibility.”

Every practice swing, caddy conversation and water bottle sip from Tiger will be highly dramatized by CBS (why wouldn’t the Golf Channel make a push to pilfer ratings with a “Tiger Cam” feed showing Woods’ every move? -- people would rush to tune into that) and that doesn’t mean much for you and me.

But for Nike and Electronic Arts, it represents a ton of exposure for their brands and their spokesman, who will be talked about on every sports show, news show, business show, blog and call-in radio program across the world. For this set of circumstances, it appears – from a marketing standpoint – no association with an admitted adulterer can be a bad thing.

And while it’d be a great boost to Tiger's namesake if he can compete well at the Masters, advertisers might not even care how he plays – just that he does.

“When it comes to his brand it is irrelevant how he (performs),” John Sweeney, a director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina, said to the AP, noting any exposure where Tiger is back doing what he does best is positive.

“He is now a soap opera character in the tabloid reality show.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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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...

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...