2006: Cha-ching - Tiger Woods' impact on marketing

By Kevin Dwire and Gene Yasuda

From the beginning, Tiger Woods captivated.

Hardly before the ink of his first Nike contract had dried, a three-page ad in The Wall Street Journal declared his arrival as a marketing force.

“There are still golf courses in the United States that I cannot play because of the color of my skin. I’m told that I’m not ready for you. Are you ready for me?” Woods challenged in the controversial Nike copy. And with it, he immediately showed the company what he could do: Be bold. Spark discussion. Draw attention.

In the decade since, his versatility as a pitchman has only expanded. Recently, when American Express decided to inspire its cardholders to be the masters of their universe, it created a campaign for dream chasers aptly titled, “My Life.” A print execution asks Woods to list what defines him:

Childhood ambition? To beat dad in a game of golf.

Proudest moment? Winning the Masters.

Indulgence? My boat.

Woods signs off “My life is hectic. My card is American Express.” This time, he connects with consumers by delivering a credo: Dream. Excel. Live.

Add to his marketing breadth his universal popularity, and it’s no wonder companies pay Woods unprecedented riches – a reported

$85 million-plus in endorsements last year. In a time of boorish, self-absorbed athletes, there is an upside to being America’s favorite sports star.

According to the Harris Poll, Woods just claimed that title, toppling Michael Jordan from the No. 1 ranking he’d held since 1993 (see chart, p9). Another testament to Woods’ unique appeal? He was voted favorite athlete not only among men, but women, too.

“A lot of people around the country, whether they buy his products or not, have found Tiger very refreshing,” says David Carter, professor of sports business at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

“People are grasping for an athlete they can believe in, and he’s believable.”

Serving as an advertising icon, however, just begins to explain what Woods does for his corporate partners. He earns his keep in myriad ways, from creating revenue streams and making special appearances to designing products and testing prototypes.

Four of Tiger’s major sponsors tell Golfweek how they employ the World No. 1 – and, more importantly, how he improves their bottom lines.

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