Why did Nike not fire Tiger woods ?
After so much has been said and done about Tiger Woods everywhere print, online, and television – No golf tournament could have kept Tiger Woods trending on twitter for so long the way this controversy did. So I finally decide to jump the bandwagon and write something about him, though it’s too late but nevertheless I would place my opinions on the issue.
Briefly summarizing the happenings, Tiger Woods is the most successful golfer in the history and one is the highest paid professional athlete through winnings and endorsements.
Highlights of his professional golfing career are something that would make anybody proud, when they were all blemished by the reports of his numerous (last count I read somewhere was 11) extra-marital affairs. And now Tiger Woods is on a break from his professional Golfing career to salvage his strained marriage.
Coming back to the business side of it, Tiger Woods was endorsing premium brands like Gillette, Accenture, and Nike. After the infidelity fiasco broke loose, Gillette and Accenture have cut off Tiger Woods from their sponsorships and advertising. However, Nike has gone the other way, deciding to support Tiger Woods.
The reason to fire Tiger was very obvious and the unethical side of Tiger actually doesn’t put up a good show for any brand he endorses, but then why is it that Nike chose to stand differently from the rest. What I see through is a deeply thought out strategy and a long term vision and understanding of the business.
To share my understanding of the situation, I would say the Accenture has actually gone and disowned the once loved Brand Ambassador which makes a lot of sense for them.
One because they have enough ghosts from the times of Arthur Andresen to haunt their branding strategy and add to it the woes of the one-time parent organization getting involved with Enron saga.
Secondly, in their line of business ethics and values are of critical importance and can be deal breaking if they have chance of being compromised. So when the kind of breach occurs at any level it was the smartest thing to be done by the Accenture people to get the tiger out as quickly they got in.
Though asking all their employees not wear the Tiger branded merchandise was a step to ridiculous or too far but for them it’s a time to retrospect and judge was it a good strategy to be so hand in glove with the brand ambassador that his actions might put the brand at risk?
However, Nike is a different ball game all together. The bread and butter of Nike is and has been sports, one thing that Nike can’t live without but an Accenture can is endorsements by the sportsman.
Given the fact that an average endorsements career for a sportsman has a limited time at its peak, and generally the trend is companies like Nike thrive on identifying great sporting talent earlier in their career offering them a long term contract with a high value in present.
This is based on hedging on the fact that they would have got an economical deal when the player makes it big with a fan following. In cases like this a sportsman starting to taste success prefer the companies who would have an emotional side and would see you through thick and thin, who would stay with you on the lean side of career, troubles, and injuries.
With Tiger, Nike has projected the image that it does stands by, when the player is alienated by his own fans, brands he endorsed, even his family it was Nike which stood by him. I am sure this is a positive thing done by Nike appealing and targeting the emotional intelligence of the sportsmen.
Secondly the product line of Nike, is a lot more independent of the moral side of the endorser. I mean as a customer mindset, I don’t attribute Tiger’s infidelity and flings to Nike Shoes or Golf Clubs. I am not sure I would not be attributed as a womanizer because I use a Nike product. A reason for this is because of the strong synergies and overlap with the Nike products and Tiger Woods, the golfer is very high. However, contrary to that Accenture was focusing more on the Tiger as a person when it was using the branding as a strategy.
Also a point which would have been considered by Nike would be the offline branding which would remain existent, and would be difficult to dissociate from.
For example, almost all the advertisements of Accenture Tiger have been displaying the Nike Logo with apparels and Nike cannot stop him from wearing them and appearing in Public. So for Nike it is impossible to dissociate themselves from Tiger. Also, with so much outrage and media attention around Tiger going off the professional golf, it is expected media would lap up with similar attention and outrage when he comes back and given the situations currently at that point Nike would be the only hotshot brand he would be endorsing. So Nike might hold all campaigns around tiger and cash it out at the opportune moment.
So, actually I would say this has been a judicious and a calculated risk taken by Nike to keep Tiger on Board, play their branding cautiously amidst sportsmen and if possible cash-out with the return of tigers in a futures brand value.Â On a very lighter note, as people shared on twitter, Tiger perfectly lives up to “Just Do It”Â branding for Nike. :)