OK, I was planning on leaving the editorializing on Tiger Woods' unseemly conduct to the variety of media who are covering this unbelievable story. But, it's now reached a point where any self-respecting blogger can't stand outside the ropes (get the golf reference?) and avoid weighing in.
The fall from grace by Woods is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fall by a major figure in the U.S. in the last 30 years. Think about it--who comes close?
Woods is arguably the most famous athlete on the planet and surely is that here in the U.S. He makes more money than any other sports figure in America. He is chasing the great Jack Nicklaus for the crown of most major golf tournaments ever won. And, he has amazed us all with his shot-making--the chip-in at Augusta, the putt in the PGA Tournament, the shot out of the rough at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach...and, of course, his stamina in winning the Open over Rocco Mediate while playing with a broken leg.
We now find out that Woods had a secret life...and we are stunned. The list of lady friends is into double digits. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, he paid off the National Enquirer two years ago from publishing a story about his indiscretions by granting an exclusive interview to a sister publication. The story just keeps getting more and more sordid.
Along the way we've heard from those who insist that this is all a "personal matter"--that Woods' privacy has been violated and that he and his wife, Elin, should be given their space. Perhaps so, but what of Woods' sponsors--the companies who have invested millions of dollars in an athlete to help them sell their brand and sell their products?
Woods checked his privacy at the door once he began accepting funds from these companies, for with these relationships came expectations--in contractual language, they are called "morals clauses" or "away-from-the-course performance expectations." The recent revelations confirm that Woods has failed miserably in complying with these agreements. Thus, privacy takes a back seat.
Accenture, perhaps the brand with the biggest stake in Woods, outside of Nike, has totally pulled away and terminated their relationship. Tag Heuer is proclaiming a hiatus in their partnership with Woods--likely code that they don't want to publicly pull the plug yet, but certainly plan to do so. Gatorade has stopped marketing its product linked to Woods and AT&T has said it will stop using any references to Woods in its marketing and advertising.
Nike will, of course, stay involved. It has a Tiger Woods brand of clothing and its golf business is inextricably linked to Woods--it simply has too much invested to walk away.
Woods, through his private dalliances which have become oh so public, has not only lost his marriage but also millions in endorsements. And, brands across the world who rely upon athletes and personalities to help market their products must be wondering, "if it can happen with Tiger, surely it can happen with most anyone."
It will be interesting to see how Tiger-gate impacts the long-term future of athlete endorsements.