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
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.’