GLOBAL BRIEF: Nike wagers dollars 90m on Woods being the next Jordan - Can golf fit the Nike brand as well as basketball did, Francesca Newland asks

He’s good at golf, personable and of mixed race - but do those combined factors make any man worth dollars 90 million over five years? To Nike they do.

He’s good at golf, personable and of mixed race - but do those

combined factors make any man worth dollars 90 million over five years?

To Nike they do.

And despite the unprecedented sum, news of Tiger Woods’ sponsorship coup

did not shock too many people.

The new deal is the result of a disagreement between Nike and Titleist,

another Woods sponsor. Titleist felt that two of Nike’s recent TV ads

created the impression that Woods was endorsing a Nike golf ball and not

its own.

Titleist has now halved its financial commitment to Woods - to dollars 2

million, leaving Nike with more freedom to make demands on its man. To

earn his dollars 90 million, Woods must brandish a Nike ’swoosh’ on the

heels and uppers of both shoes, on the back and front of his shirt, on

both sleeves, on both collars and on his visor.

Nike seems to be attempting to use Woods to fill the vacuum in sports

lovers’ minds that was created when the basketball hero, Michael Jordan,

retired at the beginning of the year. Jordan, also personable and from

an ethnic minority, earned millions from, and made millions for,


But the trouble with golf is that no matter how good you are, you are

not always going to win.

This puts Woods at a disadvantage to Jordan who, given his talent and

the nature of basketball, was almost guaranteed to put in an exciting

and top-level performance every time.

Tanya Hughes, managing director of M&C Saatchi Sponsorship, says this

doesn’t matter: ’No-one is infallible, you can’t control the sport. It’s

up to the sponsor to make the money work. Every single marketing

discipline can be used to exploit a sponsorship.’

Hughes uses the example of England’s recent poor cricket performance in

the Test series against New Zealand: ’Cornhill has been the English

cricket sponsor for a very long time. It isn’t just about how the team

is doing, it’s about how Cornhill markets it. It’s up to them to make it


But has Nike simply chosen Woods because there is no Jordan out


Golf’s reputation as the chosen pursuit of ageing snobs was the subject

of an Audi commercial by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. In the US it’s the

retirement dream of preppies who move to Florida. Neither is in keeping

with the Nike positioning.

But Nike may well have hit gold. Opinion is changing and golf is

becoming a ’cool’ sport. Hughes comments: ’Golf is a big, big sport. A

lot of old gits play it but so do a lot of young guys. All the boys at

Saatchis play it.’

Her opinion is seconded by Nick Candy, the sponsorship director of CDP:

’Golf is more mass-market and less elitist than it used to be. The

commercialism of golf is catching up with football.’

He adds: ’Tiger is attractive, he smiles a lot, has a very positive

personality and he’s only 23 - he’s perfect.’

Barrie Gill, chairman of the sports sponsorship specialist, CSS

International, summarises the move: ’If Nike has got the next Michael

Jordan, the money is worth it. Tiger is very special.’