Thursday, April 1, 2010
Sponsors who stuck by Tiger Woods are ramping up to profit from his return to the golf course.
Upper Deck Co. will sell memorabilia like signed red shirts with price tags upward of $1,800. Electronic Arts Inc. has a new browser-based version of its Tiger-themed video game coming out next week. And Nike Inc. reportedly has a TV commercial featuring Woods in the works, though it won't confirm that.
The big question is whether his tarnished image can work anything close to its old magic for them and the golf industry, which has been going through tough times of its own because of the weak economy.
It could be that all publicity is good publicity — as time passes since his admissions to extramarital affairs and he returns to golf after four months at the Masters, starting next Thursday.
Woods' leave from golf will end in about a week at the Masters, the season's first major tournament. It's about time for an industry that has seen its retail sales drop as its main participants trim their tee times and spending habits in the recession.
Tiger has been good for golf. He's brought more interest to the game from even casual players, and boosted television ratings and sponsorships — which has translated into higher payouts for Woods and his fellow golfers. In 1995, the year before Woods turned pro, the Masters' total prize payout was $2.1 million. Last year, it reached $7.5 million.
Former sponsors Accenture, AT&T and others who dropped Woods after his personal problems became public late last year have declined to say if they'll make any changes once he returns. Accenture merely referred to its December news release that announced it would drop Woods.
Experts say it will likely be at least a year before any major new companies sign Woods.