Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's Next for Tiger?

Earlier today I posted an article from Al Ries, now here's his daughter Laura:

It's what Tiger does next that counts


Tiger Woods was a rare breed. A phenomenal athlete who delivered consistent record-shattering victories on and off the course with style, grace and integrity.

In an intense game like golf, Tiger built his reputation by performing under pressure. And like his idol Jack Nicklaus, Tiger transcended from being one of the best athletes ever to being one of the best celebrity brands ever.

The latest Forbes Celebrity 100 list put Tiger at number five just behind Angelina, Oprah, Madonna and Beyonce. And ahead of Springsteen. Not bad company.

In sports, Tiger reigns supreme. For the eighth straight year, Tiger was the highest paid athlete in the world and last year was one in which he rarely played golf after being sidelined following knee surgery. In fact, nobody even comes close to the Tiger Megabrand. Tiger out-earns the number two athlete by more than two to one.

That was then, this is now. The world’s good boy has suddenly gone bad. The guy who seemed to be perfect in every way has been discovered to be a mere mortal like the rest of us. Even worse, he seems to be flawed in some very disagreeable ways.

No one was as proud of Tiger Woods as his Dad, Earl Woods. In an 1996 Sports Illustrated article, Earl famously referred to his son as the “chosen one” and predicted he would have “the power to impact nations.” Tiger certainly has enormous power but poor Earl must be rolling over in his grave over the news of the past few days.

Tiger’s fall from grace is a catastrophe we have never seen before because Tiger was a brand we have never seen before. Tiger’s image was so pure, so squeaky clean and so universally appealing that his God-like status, his walking-on-water video and the founding of the First Church of Tiger Woods all seemed so well-deserved.

Tiger’s universal appeal and lack of negatives made him the perfect pitchman. The big blue-chip brands that were lucky enough to sign Tiger knew he was worth every million they spent because of the trust and image Tiger brought to the table. Brands like Nike, Accenture, Gatorade, Gillette, American Express and Tag Heuer banked on Tiger and that unflappable image. Each of these brands played off Tiger’s image of integrity and performance under pressure.

Slogans like “Just Do It” for Nike and “Go on a be a Tiger” for Accenture resonated with people in powerful ways. Today they taken on whole new meanings.

My favorite Accenture headline says “It’s what you do next that counts” and shows Tiger with his ball on the rocks, focused on how to get back on the green. For anybody else, the shot would be impossible.

Tiger accenture

This is the perfect metaphor for Tiger today. What done is done. You can’t change the past or your last shot; you can only focus on what to do next.

The world is waiting to see exactly what Tiger does next. What he does next is what counts and what will determine his future.

Keeping his endorsements isn’t really a concern. Companies like Nike, Gatorade and Accenture are so tightly tied up with Tiger they are unlikely to cut him loose unless he goes out and kills somebody. In addition, Tiger’s sponsors are heavily male-oriented brands, so Tiger’s new ladies’ man image isn’t likely to hurt him much. Married, middle age women were never the target market when it came to Tiger’s sponsors anyway. Tiger is unlikely to gain any new sponsors, but he is making so much money now he doesn’t need more sponsors.

Keeping his wife is definitely a concern. Tiger could buy a “Kobe Special” (in reference to the $4 million ring Kobe Bryant gave his wife) and refocus and rededicate himself to her. Or Tiger could do an A-Rod and divorce his wife and start hitting the Hollywood scene. (A-Rod has been linked to stars such as Madonna and Kate Hudson.) What will not work well for Tiger and his brand is an uncertain situation and the continued tabloid storylines of ups and downs with his wife. He is better off deciding right now to stay or go right now. Or maybe his wife and her nine-iron will make the decision for him.

Keeping his fans is a big concern. Tiger used to be a universally likeable entity. Things everybody loves? Puppies, apple pie and Tiger.

Today, Tiger has become extremely polarizing. Topics to avoid at your next cocktail party? Religion, politics and Tiger.

Oddly enough, the business of golf stands to benefit from all this hoopla. The next tournament and the next PGA championship Tiger plays in will likely garner very high ratings. Everyone wants to see exactly how Tiger will perform under the extreme pressure.

And just like the Accenture ad says, it is what you do next that counts. If Tiger can win, keep his cool and reconnect with the public everything is likely to be OK. Winning changes everything.

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was charged by a hotel employee with sexual assault. The case when on for over a year when the changes were dropped after the accuser became unwilling to testify. The accuser eventually settled a civil suit with Kobe out of court. With his wife at his side, Kobe admitted in a press conference to an adulterous encounter with the young lady. Sponsors like McDonald’s quickly dumped Kobe and others like Nike and Sprite put him on the back burner.

Today, Kobe is a leading sports and celebrity superstar. He ranks as #3 in the world in athlete earnings with $45 million a year in earnings, a rank he shares with Michael Jordan. Kobe has come out with the fourth edition of his signature sneaker line with Nike the Zoom Kobe IV. And he continues his relationship with Cola-Cola however Kobe has been moved from the Sprite brand to the hipper VitaminWater brand.

What won over his fans and corporate sponsors? The $4 million ring he gave his wife? Forget it. It was his success on the court that turned it around for Kobe. After Shaq left the Lakers in 2004, Kobe became the cornerstone of the team franchise. He led the NBA in scoring in the 2005-06, and the 2006-07 seasons. In 2008 he won a gold medal at the summer Olympics. He won his fourth NBA championship in 2009 as well as the finals MVP award.

Alex Rodriguez was tabloid fodder plagued by steroid rumors, a nasty divorce and poor playoff performances. But all the negatives seemed to be old news after the Yankees finally won a World Series with A-Rod this Fall.

A lot of damage, ill will and misdoings can be corrected by excellence on the playing field. If Tiger takes a championship or two in grand style in 2010, we might look back on all this as a minor blip. An incident that brought depth, grit and humility to Tiger.

If Tiger takes another wrong turn and underperforms on the greens, we might look back at him with the same disbelief and disgust as one views Lindsey Lohan.

It is what you do next that counts Tiger. Go on be a Tiger. Believe it or not, people want you to win.

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