By Helen Coster and Hilary Russ
(Reuters) – Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, his first major victory since 2008, is expected to lift sales for sponsors, broadcasters and golf courses lucky enough to host a tournament with Woods playing.
The competition put the 43-year-old back on top of a sport he helped transform 25 years ago.
“Tiger sells golf,” says Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group, Inc., a Michigan analytics firm. Apex found that Nike earned $22.5 million worth of brand exposure just from Woods’ final round, with Nike’s “Swoosh” logo splashed on his hat, shirt, pants and shoes. Nike stock was up about one percent on Monday.
Tournament broadcaster CBS Corp saw a ratings bump. Based on preliminary data, the final round of Sunday’s tournament was the highest-rated morning golf broadcast since 1986, when CBS started collecting that data. The tournament, which is usually broadcast in the afternoon, was rescheduled to the morning because of weather.
CBS has the rights to the PGA Championship in May and expects prices for advertising time that is still available to rise as a result of Woods’ Masters victory, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The golf demographic is wealthier and better-educated than other sports fans, so TV ratings are valued more highly because they’re more apt to turn into sales, even of big-ticket items, said Neal Pilson, president of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports.
“Historically, events where Tiger Woods is on leaderboards on Sunday generated 30 to 40 percent higher ratings in the United States for those tournaments,” Pilson said.
MAKINGS OF A COMEBACK
Woods was a 20-year-old prodigy when he turned pro in 1996. Less than a year later he was ranked No. 1 in the world. He struck lucrative endorsement deals – including a five-year, $40 million deal with Nike – and golf experienced a surge in popularity.
Then Woods’ personal life collapsed and with it, his brand. In 2009, after the news of multiple infidelities, he lost endorsement deals with companies like AT&T Inc and Accenture Plc. Other sponsors, such as Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette and Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s NetJets, kept their contracts with Woods but stopped using him in marketing.
Four back surgeries later, Woods continued to suffer professionally and in the public eye. In 2017 police arrested him for driving under the influence; he pleaded guilty to reckless driving and entered a program for first-time offenders.
In 2018 Woods began a professional comeback that culminated at Sunday’s Masters. After his victory, Nike, which stood behind Woods throughout his darker years, posted an ad on its website titled “Tiger Woods: Same Dream.”
“In sports you have heroes, villains and underdogs,” said Benjamin Hordell, founder of digital marketing and advertising firm DXagency. “Tiger has lived all of it. That’s amazing from a storytelling perspective. People will root against him, but they’re watching.”
On Monday U.S. President Donald Trump said he would award Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
(Reporting by Helen Coster and Hilary Russ. Additional reporting by Sheila Dang. Editing by Kenneth Li and Cynthia Osterman)