Tiger Woods’ indiscretions cost Nike 105,000 balls – but it could have been worse says US business school

Academics at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University have estimated that the revelations of ace golfer Tiger Woods’ many infidelities cost Nike, his main sponsor, the loss of 105,000 golf ball sales.

But it could have been even worse they say, dumping the Tiger could have cost it $1.6m in lost profits.

This is a bit like comparing apples with pears but they go on to say that Nike was right to stick with Woods when other sponsors including Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade were dumping him.

But these three weren’t trying to sell golf balls were they? They were paying Tiger $22m between them because he was (in their eyes) a ‘role model.’

Anyway business schools come up with daft findings from time to time (some would say all the time) but there is an interesting issue here.

What’s the best policy to adopt when your celebrity brand hero is found to have feet of clay?

Arguably you should sidestep the question in the first place by not putting your faith and money in over-rewarded young sportsmen who are probably going to do what most young men with a pocket full of cash do, sleep around and generally behave badly.

Maybe Nike argued that its golf ball buyers (Tiger’s balls have allegedly made Nike $60m in profits over the past few years) still rather admire Woods and some may even admire him more because of his vigorous sex life.

The other companies involved might profitably try harder to produce an idea for their marketing rather than just hitch their star to a celebrity about whom they know very little apparently. Wayne Rooney’s sponsors should be having the same debate (Nike is one of them too).

Is this likely to happen?

Probably not, marketers will just decide it’s all balls.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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