Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tiger’s Brand Takes a Bogey

When Tiger’s philandering went public, his personal brand took a hard hit. The PR disaster that followed was enough to break Tiger’s endorsements with the majority of his sponsors. AT&T is the latest company to pull its Tiger sponsorship this week, after the golfer announced he is taking an indefinite break from the sport. Global consulting firm Accenture started the ongoing trend of breakups. Gillette and Tag Heuer have followed suit by putting Tiger’s contract on “hold” until his reputation improves. Nike has stood behind Tiger saying that “he is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era…We look forward to his return to golf.” But perhaps the greatest damage to his brand will be the loss of fans.

Since the affairs went public, Wood’s ranking on the Davis Brown Index has dropped from 6th to 24th. The Index quantifies celebrities’ ability to influence brand loyalty and consumer purchases as a guide for brand marketers. Woods “favorable” rating has dropped to 33% according to the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted this week, a huge drop of 85% from his last poll in June 2005. Woods posted the highest popularity rating in the poll’s history at 88% when the Gallup first measured him in 2000.

Other celebrities have suffered through various scandals and come out on top. David Beckham fended off paparazzi slander regarding adulterous rumors by making many appearances with his family and showing the public he wasn’t scared to show his face. Michael Phelps was in a different situation than Tiger, but he alienated fans of all ages and lost affiliates in an incident involving illicit substances. The public craves rising and falling stars and creates the hype around these instances, and influences companies to invest in stars in the first place. From a PR standpoint, Tiger’s publicist needs to look for ways that Tiger can rebuild his brand equity, namely by getting back on the golf course and doing what he does best.

This event has caused companies to take a closer look at the sustainability of their endorsements. When companies invest in riskier brands in the form of celebs that engage in risqué behavior, they are putting the product’s in jeopardy. Brands with a consistent image are more relatable and reliable in consumer’s eyes. When fans don’t respect their favorite pop star or athlete’s decisions they take it out on the products they support as well. Tiger’s media saturation has heightened the recognition of his sponsors, in good times and bad. But it is clear in this case that not all publicity is good publicity.

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