2006: American Express: Woods fits the bill

When American Express seeks corporate spokespeople it typically asks of them only a few requests: Attract potential customers from around the world. Exemplify the company’s ideals. Reward its members.

It’s a short list, but a daunting one, that quickly whittles down any list of candidates. Within the realm of athletes, the pickings sometimes are even slimmer. But American Express scans that arena because company research shows its consumers rank sports as a top leisure priority. When company officials spotted Woods, they knew he met all the prerequisites.

“He is one athlete . . . who really helped capture the imagination of a very different group of people,” says Judy Tenzer, American Express’ vice president of public affairs. Woods’ diverse appeal makes him among only a handful of personalities American Express has used to tout its consumer card business as well as its financial investment services.

The public also sees Tiger in major advertising initiatives, such as the “My Life” campaign and the company’s commercial spoof of the golf classic, “Caddyshack.” But only a few get invited to his special appearances. One such event occurred in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in June 2003, before the WGC-American Express Championship. American Express sold tickets exclusively to its cardholders for the opportunity to witness Woods put on a shotmaking clinic.

“In the payment services industry, it’s a different business level,” says Paul Swangard, a marketing expert at the University of Oregon. “You’re just trying to have people have top-of-the-mind awareness when they reach for their wallets. . . . These are exercises in getting people to associate with the brand.”

A promotional release for the event backed Swangard’s assessment. It touted the exclusive gathering would give attendees “valuable insights on how (Tiger) prepares for big tournaments and delivers winning shots in the most pressure-packed moments.”

Membership, apparently, does have its privileges.

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