Monday
Apr052010

Tiger Woods Presses The Flesh At The Masters On Marketing, Motivation

April 5, 2010: Admitting that he "made a lot of mistakes and totally understand why" sponsors would drop him, Tiger Woods took the next step toward rehabilitating relationships with family, friends, fellow golfers and marketing partners during a 30-minute press conference at The Masters in Augusta, Ga.

The session on April 5, moderated by the PGA Tour, included more than 200 members of the press, Woods' largest single media gathering since his accident on Thanksgiving Day. The life-changing incident uncovered a private-now-public life that has included marital infidelities, "lies and deceit" as Woods himself put it and broken alliances with several sponsors.

Woods, who earned in excess of $100 million from endorsements in 2008, has seen that figure cut about in half, with Accenture, AT&T and PepsiCo's Gatorade cutting ties. Concurrently, Nike has remained loyal to the man whose presence was the driving force behind the creation of the Nike Golf division, and vice versa. Woods wore a Nike golf shirt to the press conference, as he has during a practice round on the course earlier in the day when he also wore a Nike hat. The only other visible logo was Woods' personal TW, which appeared on his hat at the press conference and, earlier in the day, on his golf bag.

Woods answered questions ranging from the early morning accident in November to his rehab to his relationships with fans, pro golfers and marketers moving forward.

"Do I understand why they dropped me?" Woods responded to a question about his former sponsors. "Of course. I made a lot of mistakes in my life and I totally understand why they would do that."

Woods said that he and his representatives have been in touch with his sponsors during the five months since his accident. "Hopefully I can prove to the other companies going forward that I am a worthy investment, that I can help their company grow and represent them well."

Woods stated that "I felt like I was representing companies well in the past," but was quick to qualify, "then again, I wasn't doing it the right way because of what I was engaged in."

Woods said that he was nervous when he made his way to a practice round — "I didn't know what to expect" — and that he was surprised by the amount of support he received from fans and other players. Potential good news for the marketers that remained loyal to him: "The encouragement I got, it blew me away," Woods said.

The first two rounds of The Masters will be shown on ESPN April 8-9, which has been running a promo that includes Woods. CBS picks up coverage on April 10-11. Nike is said to be unveiling a spot with Woods in conjunction with The Masters, Woods' first pro golf appearance since winning the Australian Masters in Melbourne in mid-November.

EA Sports has not backed away from its alliance with the beleaguered golfer, in fact unveiling two titles since December, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 (due for release in June) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, which gets its official release with marketing support this week. Like Nike, EA's strategy is as much altruistic as financial: The company said that since the launch of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 99, the franchise has sold more than 25 million units worldwide.

TV ratings thus far this year without Woods have been down about 50%, according to industry analysts. That tracks in line with a TV ratings decline in 2008 when Woods had knee surgery. Ratings are expected to set new records on ESPN this week, which has devoted its full family of networks to coverage. Should he make the cut, CBS also is expected to garner record ratings over the weekend. Ironically, among the companies that could see a significant bump due to their alliance with The Masters is AT&T; IBM and ExxonMobil also are among the major sponsors of the event.

Woods' other marketing partners include P&G's Gillette, Tag Heuer, Upper Deck, NetJets and TLC Vision.

Woods offered an apology to other pro golfers who have endured questions from the media, related that his wife Elin and family would not be attending The Masters and revealed that he has been working his way back into golf shape over the past months even while attending a rehabilitation clinic "for personal reasons."

Full transcript of Tiger Woods' April 5 press conference is here.

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