Branding the World of Sports

General Motors drops Tiger Woods

Posted by ZA on November 24, 2008


That’s the reaction that most people are having to the news that GM is ending its 9-year relationship with golfing megastar Tiger Woods. Mr. Woods endorsed GM’s Buick brand. GM announced it was ending their endorsement deal as part of the on-going cost cutting measures at the struggling auto giant. GM says the separation is amicable and also being done so Tiger can spend more time with his family.

I’m not buying that last part. Yes, I know Tiger wants to spend more time with his family, but I don’t think GM was keeping him from doing that. That part of the statement was just a cover to make it look less like GM is dumping Woods. Let’s be clear here, General Motors is dumping Tiger Woods as an endorser.

Are they doing it because Tiger is not an effective endorser for them? No, although they probably suffered a bit this past year with Tiger on the shelf after knee surgery. The reality is GM just can’t afford these type of luxuries anymore, so they have to cut loose one of the top sports brands on the planet. Companies have to make these type of decisions when times get tough, and this is just part of the way things will go in the sponsorship world now that the economy is in full recession.

How does Tiger react to this news? I’m sure he’s a little shocked and maybe a bit hurt, but probably not devastate. He knows GM is cutting him because they are failing as a business, not for something that he did. But it still has to sting to be dropped after almost a decade working together, and I’m sure there will be some lingering doubts about his other deals. What if Nike hits a rough patch? Can Gatorade afford to keep pushing Tigerade, which is just Gatorade rebranded, in a shrinking sports drink market? Tiger is one of the top pitchman today, but even he’s not immune from the economic downturn.

What is next for Tiger & GM as they head their separate ways? General Motors is in survival mode, they’ve already eliminated their ad spending on the Superbowl. I expect them to continue to slash non-essential marketing costs, so all of their sports sponsorships will be in jeopardy. They are saying they are still committed to sponsorship of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but I wouldn’t cash that check yet if I was VANOC. GM is going to have to make some very tough choices with their marketing expenses, and some of the decisions they might not get to make themselves.

I expect Tiger Woods to rebound from this setback rather quickly. This is the off-season for golf and Tiger is not coming back until The Masters in April. But assuming his knee is fully healed by then, he should pick up where he left off as the most dominant golfer in the history of the sport. That means that by the end of 2009 new sponsorship deals will be lining up to get a piece of Tiger, even in a down economy. How would Tiger look in a Lexus as a pitchman for Toyota? Or perhaps he goes the luxury route and inks a deal with BMW or Mercedes Benz. Regardless I expect Tiger to land on his feet and back behind the wheel of another auto endorsement deal very soon.

You won’t be seeing Tiger pitching Buick anymore, his endorsement deal with GM is done.

Update: Tiger Wood’s agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG, is now saying it’s “highly unlikely” that Tiger will sign up to endorse another car company in the “near term”.  Nice try by Mr. Steinberg, but I’m calling BS on this.  I think Tiger is locked up by Lexus or Mercedes in next 18 months.  Mark it down.

One Response to “General Motors drops Tiger Woods”

  1. coffee said

    Tiger Woods seems like a solid family man, which is great

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