woodsOver the last few days most of Tiger Woods’ sponsors have published press releases on their future relationship with him. Gillette and Accenture have dropped him, whilst Tag Heuer and Nike continue their support for the time being. Critics have been quick to criticize particularly Gillette and Accenture claiming that Tiger’s private matters should have nothing to do with his performance levels on the golf course. Who are we to morally disqualify him (or anybody else). True but not relevant! They are missing the point. These companies have always supported Tiger, as his values seemed to match with the values of their own. As this seems no longer the case, their decision is logical.

When looking at Tiger’s brand identity, Tiger has always come across as Mr Clean; a family man and a person that is always showing great dignity and integrity on and off the pitch. Tiger’s values could possibly be summarized as loyal, trustworthy, integer, reliable, focused. Most of these values probably still stand but integrity and reliability can be crossed off the list I believe. Surely one is allowed a mistake but not one of such significance, particularly given his emphasis on virtues of being humble and honest. Stardom comes at a price I am afraid and Tiger’s authenticity and credibility have been severely dented here.

Now let’s go back to the sponsors. It is to appreciate that Nike, EA Sports and TAG Heuer will continue to support Tiger, “the athlete”, at least for the time being. However, it has to be said that it is much easier for them than for example for Accenture, Gillette and possibly AT&T. Why? The core values of the likes as Nike, EA Sports and Tag Heuer do not conflict with Tiger’s actions, whereas this is the case for the other 3.
Although Nike does not specifically state its core values, its mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. As Tiger as a golfplayer still is inspiring many, this does not really conflict with Tiger’s actions so far. Hence Nike can permit itself a sit and wait strategy, also taking into account that Tiger is commercially tremendously important to Nike. For TAG Heuer things are not that different. TAG’s core values are excellence, performance and exceptional achievement, all values still applicable to Tiger as a top athlete.

Now let’s look at the core values of Accenture and Gillette, who seem both to have more broadly defined core values. Those of Accenture are client value creation, one global network, integrity, stewardship, best people and respect for the individual. Tiger’s actions particularly conflict with integrity and respect for the individual. Additionally Accenture’s commercial “we know what it takes to be a Tiger” does not help in this respect. Gillette’s core values are achievement, integrity and collaboration. Again Tiger’s actions conflict with integrity, as did the recent action of Thierry Henry by the way (both feature in the same commercial). In any case you can barely condemn these companies for acting in accordance with their core values or better said, their DNA. They have “to practice what they preach”, “walk the talk” so to say. If not, they can barely be taken seriously, which particularly is the case for Accenture, which sometimes advises clients on these matters. In this perspective I would not be surprised if AT&T would do the same as Accenture and Gillette. Clearly, the actions of these sponsors do not condemn Tiger as an athlete, no one disputes his greatness in this perspective. What it does tell is how companies connect with sportspeople representing their brand identity and that all of them seem to have acted in accordance with what they stand for. Tiger has lost his authenticity and integrity off the course, which is coming at a large price and may take years (if ever) to repair.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply