Unless you have been living in a cave over the past 3 weeks, you have likely heard about the dramatic series of event that has thus far culminated in allegations that Tiger Woods has been carrying on with multiple affairs over the previous years, despite appearing to be happily married. While these allegations can spark any number of conversations ranging from the potential effects of Tiger being a childhood prodigy to the sanctity of marriage… I am more concerned with the the business side of this debacle. More specifically, I am interested in what all of these events coming to light will do to Tiger’s brand.
The only thing that can eclipse the sheer scale and magnitude of the Tiger Woods brand is what he has been able to achieve on the golf course. To be certain, none of these allegations can diminish the successes that he has realized on the links. However, advertisers and sponsors have taken his “superman-like” achievements on the golf course, applied that magic to the image of “Tiger, the man”, and bottled it up to sell in bulk. Tiger has been portrayed in advertisement to be infallible… a superhuman. Tiger was made to be a role model, someone that everyone could look up to and strive to be (Remember the “I am Tiger Woods” campaign?). Even most recently (and in a cruel dose of perfectly timed irony), Golf Digest ran a cover story on “Lessons President Obama can Learn from Tiger Woods”. But, reality often has a way of setting the record straight… and it has in a big way.
With these recent events, it is clear that Tiger is no role model… no-one to aspire to be in life. On the golf course, perhaps… but in life, clearly not. Since so much of Tiger’s brand transcended what he did on the golf course, it seems inevitable that his brand will “take a hit”. There will, of course be those fans who do not feel that what he has done is that bad, and they will stick behind them. Perhaps it was unfair to create this brand that was so superhuman and untouchable. Perhaps no-one could have lived up to that standard. Regardless, the TW brand was built and sold on an image (and Tiger made a lot of money on that image)… and now it is tarnished.
As Donald Trump often points out, a brand is critically important. It speaks about the quality of what you are buying. When the quality of the brand is diminished, so too is the value of the products associated with that brand.
So, what is next for the Tiger Woods brand. His name is splattered all over merchandise, advertising campaigns, video games, and countless other media. It would be foolish to say that it is impossible for celebs to recover from this sort of thing. However, I’d say that in the least a brand re-invention will be required. Let the “spin doctors” begin.
I wouldn’t expect to see any more, “I am Tiger Woods” campaigns out there. The only positive spin I can see this having is Tiger admitting whole heartedly that he is not his brand… he is human. Perhaps by doing so, he can connect to people. Tiger will need to disconnect himself from the brand, separating Superman and Clark Kent. At that point, perhaps he can build back up under another image. Maybe he will embrace a “bad boy” image, and bring all of the 20 - 30 something’s, who have grown up watching him along for the ride. Regardless, with every new spin that this story takes, I think it is pretty safe to say that the TW brand as we have known it is dead.
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