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December 02, 2021

EA threatens, not in so many words, Tiger Woods

Back earlier this year, when sponsors were running from Tiger Woods as if his three-wood was dipped in uranium, a few companies stood by their man, for better or worse.

Most famously, Nike and Electronic Arts, the maker of the mega-popular Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise, threw caution to the wind and kept the golfer as their pitchman, in spite of Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture seemingly fleeing the Tiger scene.

Yet you just got the feeling, all the while, that these guys wanted to appear loyal just for PR’s sake. It’d be bad to dump the world’s best golfer in bad times, because in good times he’s gonna more than recoup your losses.

Well, these are still not good times for Woods. He took months off golf for personal reasons following his late-2009 car crash and subsequent martial problems, and – since his return – he hasn’t won a tournament and has lost the no. 1 world ranking.

EA, for one, appears to be getting spooked.

Telling the world more than perhaps he intended, EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello, who pays Woods a reported $8 million per year, suggested this week that Tiger needs to start winning again “for (this) partnership to make sense.”

“This is no threat against Tiger,” he told Reuters, obviously threatening Tiger. “We have no plans to move away from him, but it’s a business relationship on the basis of we make the best golf game and he’s the best golfer. Both of those things need to be true in the long run for the partnership to make sense.

“We’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time,” Riccitiello added.

Of course, you can call this exactly what EA likely would – an innocuous comment by the head of its division concerning one of his most popular games.

Yet, come on. No one calls out LeBron James or Peyton Manning – two of sports other marketing forces – for not winning a title recently (they have one championship between them: Peyton’s Super Bowl ring, from the 2006 season).

Even the most staunch Tiger supporter, then, will call this exactly what the rest of the world would – a major corporation starting to get queasy because its most prolific spokesperson is an admitted adulterer, someone the general public loathes and, most directly, an average golfer at this point.

Tough to blame EA, sure. But perhaps this is a message directly to Tiger himself: win soon or bid adieu to another sponsor.

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...