Sponsors Re-Evaluating Deals with Tiger Woods

Accenture, Gillette, AT&T reassess relationships with the scandal-beset Woods following announcement that he will take an indefinite break from professional golf

Updated: 7:55 p.m. ET, Dec. 13, 2009

Tiger Woods’ announcement Dec. 11 that he’ll take an “indefinite” leave from professional golf sent ripples through the sports world where Woods has had an enormous impact on television ratings and endorsement dollars.

And while statements from Woods' business associates have largely been supportive, multiple sponsors are now backing away amid revelations of the golf star's apparent numerous extra-marital affairs.
Accenture has severed its six-year relationship with the Woods.
"Given the circumstances of the last two weeks, after careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising," Accenture said in a statement Dec. 13.
The consulting firm had already removed Woods' picture from its homepage and is planning a new campaign.

Procter & Gamble's Gillette released a statement Dec. 12 saying: “As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs." The company has not run a television commercial featuring Woods since Nov. 29, according to Nielsen. Woods will also be phased out of Gillette’s print ads. He has had a contract with Gillette since 2007.

AT&T is also examining its relationship with the golfer.

“We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him,” the company said in a statement.

AT&T is Woods’ PGA Tour sponsor, and its logo appears on his golf bag.

Nike, which manufactures Woods’ trademark black slacks and red shirt, has released multiple statements of support, although the sports apparel company has also suspended campaigns featuring Woods.

“Tiger has been part of Nike for more than a decade," the company said in a statement Dec. 12. "He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era. We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."

Woods earns an estimated $100 million a year in endorsements. But he also figures in the bottom line for television networks that carry major and minor tournaments.

When Woods won his first Masters tournament in 1997, 13.68 million viewers tuned in to CBS’ coverage of the final round. It is a record that has only been challenged one time since: in 2001 when Woods won again and 13.63 million viewers tuned in to see him put on the tournament's vaunted green blazer.

In fact, CBS gets a 20% bump in ratings when Woods wins the tournament, averaging just under 12 million viewers for the final round of play compared to an average of 9.5 million viewers when Woods does not win.

Woods has won the Masters four times, in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005. In 2007, he tied for second but was in contention until the final round of play.

And it’s not just the major tournaments that enjoy the Tiger Effect. When he returned after knee surgery to win Bay Hill last March, NBC’s coverage of the tournament out-rated the British Open and the PGA Championship the previous year when Woods was out recovering.

Woods has been in seclusion since an accident near his Florida home has erupted into a major infidelity scandal. He cancelled an appearance at his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., shortly after the accident.

He broke the news of his leave of absence on his web site Friday evening.

"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods wrote. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

“It’s a wonderful course of action and I hope everyone will give them the peace to do the best thing for the family,” Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports, said in a statement.

A Golf Channel spokesperson pointed out that the sport has been without Woods before and added: "We understand and respect Tiger's decision to take time off to focus on his family. When he decides the time is right for him to return, we will join the rest of golf in welcoming him back.”