After nine years, General Motors and Tiger Woods are parting ways.
It apparently was a mutual decision. Tiger says that he wants to “concentrate on growing his own Tiger brand,” and General Motors desperately needs to save money. While the eight million a year they were paying him is pittance compared to the company’s $73 billion on losses since 2004, every little bit counts.
It’s just as well. I never thought Woods was believable as a Buick spokesman. In fact, there’s absolutely nothing about Tiger Woods that says “cars” to me.
Tiger didn’t do the brand much good, either. The median age of a Buck buyer in 2008 was 68—hardly Tiger’s demographic. Buick sales today are half what they were in 1999. With those numbers, Buick has been the hardest hit of all the GM brands. This year, Buick sales are down 25%, compared to 20% for General Motors other brands.
Buick apparently still will be involved in golf, at least for the time being. The car company remains—until 2010—sponsor of The Buick Invitational, and the Buick Open, and is the official vehicle of the Tour. Buick courtesy cars still will be offered at many events. GM’s golf future is unknown after 2010.
Don’t be surprised if GM pulls out of golf altogether after that. Ford dropped its sponsorships in favor of Bull Riding a couple of years ago.
The big question for me is what Tiger means by “growing his own Tiger brand.” Will his bag now simply sport the very recognizable TW logo? That would allow him to simultaneously promote any number of Tiger Woods branded products: golf equipment, apparel, video games, TW Gatorade, Tag Heuer watches and so on.
Where does he go beyond that? The image he has created for himself doesn’t leave a lot of room for expansion. In fact, in his single-minded pursuit of golf’s records, Tiger strikes me as somewhat of an ascetic—like an medieval monk who has forsaken all worldly pleasures in devotion to God.
I’m having a hard time coming up with products he could believably pitch. The Gillette thing is ridiculous, as his relationship with the discount store Target. I don’t believe he knows anything about cars. I can’t relate to his financial company endorsements.
Fast Food? Beer? Electronics? Can anyone seriously see him with a Big Mac or Budweiser in hand? Telling us of the virtues of an HP computer? Or smiling after a victory and telling the world that he’s “going to Disneyworld?”
Will the Tiger Woods brand involve peripheral businesses? Tiger already has a growing golf course design company. A chain of golf schools would make sense. But beyond that?
Arnold Palmer once owned and lent his name to a successful chain of dry cleaners. Is there something similar in Woods’ future? Would anyone go to eat at a Tiger Woods family restaurant? Book a vacation through Woods Travel? Go to a Tiger Gym?
I don’t know where he goes with this. For me, his name and image just don’t extend beyond the boundaries of the golf course.