Financial Fallout From Woods Incident

Bloomberg is reporting that ads featuring Tiger Woods have virtually disappeared since the start of the recent unpleasantness.

Advertisements featuring Tiger Woods have disappeared from prime-time broadcast television and many cable channels following reports of his extramarital affairs, according to data from Nielsen Co.

The last prime-time ad featuring the 33-year-old golfer was a 30-second Gillette Co. spot on Nov. 29, according to New York- based Nielsen. Woods also was absent from ads on a number of weekend sports programs, including NFL games, Nielsen said.

The site also reports that Woods has fallen from sixth among celebrity endorsers to 24th.

He’ll survive, I’m sure. If Tiger never made another dime, the billion dollars he received prior to this will keep his great-great-great grandchildren in fine fashion.

The PGA Tour should be more worried. They had all of their eggs in the Tiger basket. The big cash numbers put up by the Tour rely heavily on Woods’ popularity with casual golf fans. Even my mother, who is by no means a sports fan, would watch when Tiger was playing. Ratings for non-Tiger tournaments are half those he decides to grace with his presence. Heck, there are tournaments that have collapsed when he made it clear he would never participate.

So Tour advertisers and sponsors will take into account a possible loss of the casual viewer when negotiating new deals. I predict that the first few Tiger plays will show a sharp uptick in viewership, as people tune in to see a potential train wreck. But after that, I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to what happens. Conventional wisdom says that if Tiger wins in the accustomed fashion, his popularity will be restored. And among golf fans, I’m sure that’s true. But it’s the casual watchers that the Tour depends on. Those are what has inflated its numbers over the past decade.

The Golf Blogger has long argued that Tiger (or rather, the Tour’s dependence on Tiger) is actually bad for the Tour in the long run. Woods’ popularity is strictly personal, and does not translate in to a general increase in interest in the sport itself. Course owners discovered that when the Tiger effect they prepared for never materialized.

I think the PGA Tour also knew this at some level, which is partially why they’ve tried to create some buzz with the FedEx Cup and a renewed Players Championship. They had to leverage Tiger to create something that would last after he retired (sooner, rather than later). I’m sure Tour honchos figured they had ten or fifteen years left to build on Tiger’s popularity. It wasn’t going to work, but it was all Finchem and Company had once they hitched their wagon to his star.

From a business perspective, this is going to be a very interesting couple of years.

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