We don’t have much interest in the prurient side of L’Affaire Tiger, while most of the media is engaged in a pile-on contest. However, we are interested in how the fallout affects sports marketing.
As Tiger Woods’ image has plummeted precipitously from penthouse to basement, brands paying seven figures annually for the intellectual property rights to the planet’s most-renowned athlete all have an opportunity to liquidate their contracts with Woods or take a price cut that would make Wal-Mart envious.
“We’re at a time where every company is looking hard at any big marketing commitment, so if you wanted to get out or renegotiate your deal, Tiger put it on the tee for you,” said the principal at a sports agency renowned for its knowledge of the industry’s political minefields.
As Tiger’s only business-to-business corporate patron, Accenture’s surgical removal of Woods is the one we find most intriguing. When a publicly traded company announces anything on a Sunday, you know it’s scurrying. Such was the case with Accenture’s discard of Woods, an endorser since 2003. We first thought Tiger’s transgressions would matter less to Accenture than, say, Nike, AT&T or Gatorade. Our rationale was that its b-to-b target would be indifferent to issues of infidelity. Certainly none were under the illusion that Woods was a huge Accenture client; they knew the consultancy was just using Woods as a way to differentiate.
So why was Accenture the first to sever Tiger? Simple: Woods was Accenture’s sole marketing platform.
Then there was the matter of the creative from Young & Rubicam, which used phrases seemingly designed to engender double entendres in a sex scandal, like, “Go on. Be a Tiger,” or “Opportunity isn’t always obvious.” Additionally, Woods images were widely used on Accenture internal documents and in recruiting materials.
Another challenge was the media platforms selected. Sure, there was TV and print, but anyone who travels by air knows the Woods/Accenture ads are ubiquitous in American airports and in many overseas air terminals. Those will take months to swap out. So integrated was Woods with Accenture that internal estimates put the cost of unwinding the association in the tens of millions, and it is a process that also will take months.