Sponsors back Tiger after crash

Updated: 01 December 2009 12:48 IST

Tiger Woods received support from sponsors Nike and Gatorade on Monday but marketing experts urged the world's number one golfer to divulge more about last week

Sponsors back Tiger after crash

Orlando, Florida :

Tiger Woods received support from sponsors Nike and Gatorade on Monday but marketing experts urged the world's number one golfer to divulge more about last week's car accident.

Woods, the first billion dollar sportsman, was taken to hospital with facial injuries after crashing into a fire hydrant and a tree near his home early Friday morning but is yet to really explain how the accident happened.

He withdrew on Monday from this week's Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he hosts every year to benefit his charity foundation, saying his injuries were such that he was unable to play.

After deciding not to talk with police about the incident and to stay in his Florida mansion, Woods has done nothing to dampen rampant speculation that a domestic dispute was somehow behind the accident.

"He is not going to get out of this scandal until he has something to say," Amanda Alvaro of Toronto public relations firm Narrative Advocacy Media told CTV.

"He would've been far better to get ahead of this issue instead of being trapped behind it. He needs to tell the story clearly, and he needs to tell it again and again.

"All of that credibility he had built up is falling away."

Woods became the first pro athlete in any sport to earn one billion dollars in his career last September, according to Forbes magazine, with much of that money coming from sponsors through endorsements.

"Tiger and his family have Nike's full support," Nike said in a statement. "We respect Tiger's request for privacy and our thoughts are with Tiger and his family at this time."

"Our partnership with Tiger continues," Gatorade said in a statement. "We wish Tiger well as he recovers and look forward to seeing him back on the course soon."

Whether linked to cars or razors or events with his own line of sports drink, the Woods name has become a brand that has excited sponsors and lured huge viewership to golf tournaments in which he plays.

Woods received more than 105 million dollars in sponsorship deals last year, more than twice as much as his nearest rival sport endorser, according to Sports Illustrated.

"I suspect he is relatively bullet-proof at this point," Larry McCarthy, an associate professor of sports marketing at Seton Hall University's Center for Sport Management, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Even if he has been involved in something, we tend to forgive and forget when it comes to the behavior of athletes," McCarthy said, although "the more you stonewall these things, the longer they tend to drag on."

Denials of the most salacious reports -- Woods being linked to an affair with a New York showclub hostess and being chased by Swedish ex-supermodel wife Elin as she smashed his vehicle with a golf club -- have not filled the void of answers.

Police ruled out alcohol as a factor in the crash and no one other than Woods was hurt in the incident, but charges such as careless or reckless driving could still be filed and the incident remains under investigation.

Woods guards his private life - his yacht is nicknamed "Privacy" - and there seems to be public support for that stand, at least in the US, as an ESPN poll showed nearly 75 percent of respondents think the golf supremo owes no public explanation for his actions.

So far, any marketing damage appears to be short term.

"Tiger is the most successful athlete endorser ever, so you would think that the Madison Avenue folks would be forgiving," Baker Street Advertising executive creative director Bob Dorfman told CNN.

Beijing Olympic swim hero Michael Phelps, pictured holding a pipe often used to smoke marijuana, and NBA star Kobe Bryant, who admitted an affair and bought his wife a huge diamond ring, have been tarnished by revelations but emerged from controversy relatively unscathed.

Topics : Golf
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