Woods sponsors standing behind him for now

By Associated PressDecember 3, 2009, 6:02 am

Longtime sponsors are sticking with Tiger Woods – for now.

But the world’s most famous athlete, who offered a “profound apology” Wednesday following allegations of infidelity, might find new deals hard to come by, marketing experts say, and the loyalty of existing sponsors could be tested by any additional tawdry stories or his reluctance to address the issue publicly.

“Unfortunately for Tiger, the situation is not over,” said Bob Williams, CEO of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing, which represents companies looking to hire celebrities to sell their brands.

“The linchpin will be when he addresses the public for the first time,” Williams said, adding that will help companies determine how they feel about him.

Woods’ apology came in a statement on his Web site, after a cover story in Us Weekly magazine reported that a Los Angeles cocktail waitress claimed to have had a 31-month affair with the world’s No. 1 golfer. The magazine also published what it said was a voice mail – provided by the waitress, Jaimee Grubbs – that Woods left on her phone on Nov. 24, three days before his middle-of-the-night car crash outside his Florida home.

Woods did not offer details of any alleged relationships but said he had “not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

Forbes estimated earlier this year that Woods was the first athlete to surpass $1 billion in career earnings, more than 80 percent of that coming from endorsements with companies such as Nike, Gillette, Gatorade and AT&T. Those are all long-term relationships, Octagon First Call’s David Schwab said, partners not likely to dump him at the first rough patch.

Nike, Gatorade and EA Sports all released statements Wednesday expressing their support or commitment to Woods, and Gillette said it had no plans to change its marketing programs. AT&T declined comment.

“These are people who are invested with him in his foundation, his golf courses, across the board. So they’re part of his family, too,” said Schwab, who also links companies and celebrities for branding opportunities.

In fact, cutting ties with Woods now could actually hurt a company, Schwab said.

“Brands look at how impactful a spokesperson can be for their for brand but also what the public outcry or public opinion would be,” he said. “If a brand drops him, there could potentially be negativity toward the brand for doing so.

“That’s why brands typically weather the storm.”

But companies that may have wanted to align themselves with Woods might rethink that – particularly companies whose target audience is women or children. Part of Woods’ appeal has been his pristine image, off the course as well as on, and events of the last week have tainted that, making him an easy target.

Jay Leno poked fun at Woods during his show Tuesday night. Spirit Airlines is trying to capitalize on his troubles, too, offering an “eye of the tiger” sale, which they’re promoting with a video that shows a tiger in a baseball cap driving an SUV into a fire hydrant.

Zeta Interactive’s “Zeta Buzz” mines more than 100 million blogs, message boards and social media posts to analyze the feelings of potential consumers. In the past, terms most associated with Woods were “Masters,” “golf” and “winning,” Zeta CEO Al DiGuido said. In the last week, that’s changed to “affair” and “cheat,” DiGuido said.

The tone of posts has also changed, he said. Before the car crash, 91 percent were positive. That’s now down to 74 percent. The volume also has skyrocketed. Zeta Buzz found 900 posts related to Woods on Tuesday; from midnight to noon Wednesday, there were 2,000, DiGuido said.

“As much as he wants to put this behind him, what’s happening now is the alleged scandal is starting to fuel the buzz, and it’s not positive for Tiger Woods,” DiGuido said. “The volume is continuing to grow and the negative side of it is getting more intense.

“It would be something that (if you’re a sponsor) you would watch pretty closely because it starts to take on a life of its own.”

It’s not just Woods who stands to lose. The Tiger Woods Foundation provides educational resources to disadvantaged children, with a $25 million learning center in Anaheim, Calif., and plans to build another in Washington, D.C.

“With respect to the sponsors and partners, they’ve shown a tremendous amount of support in us and this event, and they’ve been supportive of the foundation and they’ve been proud of the work we’ve done the past 13 years with more than 10 million kids,” Greg McLaughlin, foundation president and tournament director for Woods’ Chevron World Challenge, said this week.

“A lot of kids need our help and want our help, and we’re going to continue to grow our foundation and provide valuable services to these kids,” he said.

Woods, who backed out of the tournament after the accident, again pleaded for privacy in his statement Wednesday, saying “problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.” But that’s not going to be good enough, the marketing experts said.

Questions will continue to be asked until Woods himself answers them, they said. And the longer he goes without facing the public, the more fans and consumers will question the faith they had in him.

 “Sponsors are going to listen to the people who buy their products,” said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon Strategic Communications in New York. “If he handles it well, and he still has the opportunity to do that, he can put this to bed. Currently, the way he’s handling it is failing.

“The language in the statement is perfect,” Gordon added. “But he needs to come out and humanize it and say those words and answer a handful of tough questions on the subject. The more he avoids direct media contact, he creates more scrutiny of the situation.”

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

 

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.