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Sports Business

Tiger Woods isn't getting the Fuzzy Zoeller treatment

December 3, 2009
KEYWORDS Sports Business

I guess some transgressions are forgivable and others are not. At least when it comes to the world of big-time athletes and endorsement deals.
Tiger Woods’ biggest endorsers—including Gatorade, Nike, Gillette and Chevron—are sticking with him. We all know what Woods did and is accused of doing, so I won’t go into all that here.

But I hearken back to 1997, when Indiana native Fuzzy Zoeller had an indiscretion at The Master’s. He uttered some very unfortunate racial jokes about Woods to other golfers. Those words were caught on tape and for a while made headlines.
I think most of us can agree, there’s no place for racial jokes in sports or anywhere. Kmart and the rest of Zoeller’s sponsors dropped him like a hot potato.

But I can’t help wonder if the 180-degree different treatment each man received following their faux pas is more about the type of indiscretion or the relative return on investment each man promised his corporate partners.
In any event, Woods, so far, has come out unscathed in the commercial sense. His corporate partners don’t appear to have any more discretion than he does.
Swiss watch company Tag Heuer has run ads—including a big cover ad in USA Today—this week, featuring Tiger Woods that read “What are you made of?”

Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal featuring Woods walking through the tall fescue of a golf course with the line “The road to high performance isn’t always paved.”

I think I speak for crisis communication experts everywhere when I say to that ad, “Yikes!”

On the cover of Accenture’s Web site today, the company has a picture of Woods in the rough with the line, “Opportunity isn’t always obvious.”
To quote ESPN’s Tom Jackson, “C’mon, man!”

Maybe Woods’ won’t lose a penny in sponsorships. Maybe, as local sports marketing guru Larry DeGaris suggested on WIBC earlier this week, some men may actually find Woods’ more admirable after recent revelations about his personal life.

But then there’s this. Jesper Parnevik’s public apology to Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren. Parnevik introduced Woods and Nordegren, who worked for Parnevik and his wife as a nanny.
Parnevik had some sharp words and advice for Woods yesterday after finishing first-round play at the PGA Tour's final-stage of qualifying being held at Bear Lakes Country Club in Florida.

“It’s a private thing, of course, but when you are the guy he is, the world’s best athlete, you should think more before you do stuff,” Parnevik said.

Then he unleashed the line that had to make every Nike executive from Oregon to New York cringe.

“Maybe not just do it, like Nike says,” Parnevik said.

Unscathed? Time will tell. And that’s not a line from a Tag Heuer ad.


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