By Barry Janoff
August 10, 2014: Even as he struggles to rediscover his game on the course, Tiger Woods has again found his game, this time in the mobile and online worlds.
Woods has signed a multi-year deal with Zynga, based in San Francisco, to produce golf games, with the first scheduled to hit marketing in 2015.
Like Woods, Zynga itself has been struggling of late. Zynga in early August reported that its 2Q revenue was $153 million, down 34% from the previous year, and that actual net loss was $63 million, compared to a net loss of $16 million the year before.
Woods, who this past weekend did not make the cut at the PGA Championship event in Louisville, has 14 Major championships to his name but has not won a Major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He had been with EA Sports since 1998, producing the annual Tiger Woods PGA Tour until the alliance ended this past October.
Financial terms of the Zynga deal were not disclosed.
The Woods alliance is part of a dedicated push by Zynga to enter the sports category through its new Zynga Sports 365 division, which also will create NFL games via deals with the league and NFL Players Inc. The first, NFL Showdown, is in the process of going live.
Zynga said it has "leading brands and capabilities in six top consumer gaming categories – Farm, Casino, Words, Racing, People and Sports." Its offerings include Words With Friends and FarmVille.
"We are further diversifying our product portfolio in order to reach more consumers and widen our demographic across more entertainment genres," Zynga CEO Don Mattrick said during a financial conference call earlier this month.
In 2009, Woods earned more than $120 million annually from endorsements. That is down to about half, according to industry analysts. The Zynga deal, however, was his second in recent months following a multi-year pact with MusclePharm.
Woods deals also include Kowa, NetJets, Nike Golf, Rolex and Upper Deck.
"Golf’s massive global appeal and innate social nature lends itself well to mobile games and fosters the on-the-go competition we know you want," Clive Downie, COO for Zynga, said in a statement. "By combining Tiger Woods’ unparalleled golf insights with Zynga’s ability to create meaningful connections between players, we can develop truly unique social golf games that bring authenticity and accessibility to sports enthusiasts."
Concerning their football platform, Zynga said that multi-year licensing partnerships with the NFL and NFLPI (the licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Assn.), respectively, would enable them to develop games that "bring real NFL teams and athletes, including their names and likeness, to you our players."
Zynga said its first game, NFL Showdown, is in "geo-lock and is currently available in select markets."
According to Downie, "The game is a manager-style mobile-first simulation game that offers sports enthusiasts a unique social experience that delivers authenticity, accessibility and competition. The game puts you in the thick of the action, letting you engage with your favorite teams and players 365 days a year, taking on the roles of coach, general manager and owner as you manage your team to victory."
Like Woods, Zynga intends for its sports development to lead to a reversal of misfortunes.
“While our quarterly financial results were in line with our guidance range, we aspire to do better and improve execution across our business,” Mattrick said in a statement. “Inside Zynga, we recognize that our products have the potential to live for multiple years and with nurturing, refinement and investment, they can grow and scale. We are purposefully competing, and while we would like to be further along, we believe we are making the right decisions to grow our business and unlock long-term shareholder value.”
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