BrandDunk

Branding the World of Sports

General Motors throws Tiger Woods under the bus

Posted by ZA on February 15, 2010

Bob Lutz, the 78 year old Vice Chairman of General Motors, might know something about designing cars but he’s certainly no expert on marketing.  That is because Lutz recently dropped a verbal jabs on Tiger Woods, the former General Motors pitchman.  Lutz said that GM was not “…too lucky with Tiger…” and that their $50 plus million dollar endorsement deal with Woods did not boost sales for Buick.

My question is if Lutz is going to lay the verbal smack down on someone, shouldn’t it be his own team?  Lutz has been a top executive at GM for the majority of their time with Tiger, so I assume he was aware of the approximately $8 million dollars per year endorsement deal his company had with the golf star.  So why wait until after the deal is done to complain about the effectiveness of it?  Why didn’t Lutz demand that his marketing personnel make changes to improve the effectiveness of the endorsement deal?  Why didn’t Lutz change the way they were using Tiger or change the message Woods was pushing for GM?  Lutz did concede that GM, “…didn’t have him say the right things at the time.” and admits it is “partially” GM’s fault.

Maybe Lutz was the reason that General Motors bailed on their deal with Tiger a year early.  But at that time GM marketing execs were supporting the deal with Tiger by saying “We attribute awareness of our product to Tiger.”  GM claimed the move to end their relationship a year early was “hard to walk away from” but that it was a financial decision to “free up a lot of money for us (GM)”.  So if Tiger was so ineffective for GM and Buick, then why didn’t they cite that as a reason for ending their relationship with the World’s #1 golfer?

I think this is poor form by General Motors and Lutz to criticize Tiger now, more than a year after they dropped him.  With all of the controversy that Woods has been involved in lately, this amounts to Lutz kicking a man while he’s down.  Should you feel sorry for Tiger?  Heck no, because he was paid handsomely by GM.  Plus Tiger is responsible for all of the personal problems that have gotten him into trouble lately.  But I think GM and Lutz need to take a lesson from this situation; that you should speak honestly in parting, not comeback later to blame the other guy when your deal did not work.

Lutz should have kept his mouth shut publicly, something apparently he’s had trouble doing in the past, and shared his feelings on the deal with his own staff.  That might help his company to avoid signing ineffective marketing partnerships in the future, while not offending the top sports endorsement star on the planet.  Oh I know Tiger has fallen way off his perch, but don’t think that Woods will never regain his place at the top of the sports world.  And when he does I’m sure there will be people there to remind Tiger what the top brass at GM said about him.  If I was a competitor of GM, I might enjoy the opportunity to unleash Tiger on his former sponsor someday – because Tiger is a fierce man when he puts his mind to something.  Lutz may learn to regret throwing Tiger under the bus in such a public fashion.

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