The news that Tiger Woods has signed a prestigious new multi-year deal with Swiss watch manufacturer Rolex will certainly be welcome news for Woods’ bank manager. Ever since his girlfriend decided to swing his nine-iron after revelations of his antics on tour, long-time sponsors of the former world number one abandoned ship one after the other.
Lucrative deals with AT&T, Tag Heuer, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette were all wiped from Woods balance sheet in the wake of his lurid revelations. Indeed, the only sponsorship Woods had managed to garner prior to these defections was with Kowa Company Ltd in Japan endorsing a heat rub product for the Japanese market.
So why Rolex has chosen to team up with Woods now? Woods stock has plummeted as far as his ranking; the former world number one is now ranked outside the top 50. He has not won a tournament in almost two years. His reputation, tarnished by x-rated details of his antics on tour will never be the same.
A friend recently quipped (with no authority we’re quick to add) that maybe Rolex was less interested in marketing themselves on the back of Woods golfing ability; rather the company hopes that his stamina in the bedroom will project the lasting power of their watches and propel sales of their product.
The fact that one of Rolex main competitors, Tag Heuer, had dropped Woods provided Rolex with an opportunity to snatch the former great from under their noses.
In the corporate world, it seems that the only bad news about a player, is no news.
Stranger even still is that Woods does not wear a watch on the course! He does, apparently, keep a watch in his bag while playing, but the sponsor is hardly likely to gain much television exposure if their product is nestling in a pocket alongside his mobile phone and car keys.
Rolex formally stated that they sought the deal with the golfer due “to the exceptional stature of Tiger Woods and the leading role he plays in forging sports global appeal.”
How they figure Woods has achieved that over the last two years is beyond understanding.
More believable are the claims from Rolex that stated they were “convinced that Tiger Woods still has a long career ahead of him and that he has all the qualities required to continue to mark the history of golf.”
Certainly, in terms of sheer talent, no golfer has quite had the impact or the skills of Tiger Woods at his best. He may be struggling at present, but there is a genuine feeling from Woods and from many observers within the game, that he will return to his best.
The morally outraged will point out the Rolex deal gives implicit validity to Woods licentious behaviour. That somehow, he is being rewarded for behaving badly. Of course, who’s to judge?
The counterpoint is it was a calculated business gamble from Rolex. Woods, regardless of his past shenanigans, is a still a highly marketable name due to his past success alone. Rolex already have deals with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Woods past performances place him in such illustrious company. If he can return to greatness, then this deal will have been seen as worth the risk and a piece of corporate brilliance.
Still, the name of Tiger Woods alone will certainly help Rolex sell their product, especially in markets where the Swiss manufacturer is trying to break the stranglehold of Omega.
As unreasonable as it may seem that Woods is being rewarded after his past shenanigans, at some point the golfing public has to move on. Woods has paid a price, not just in terms of professional reputation but also in terms of his private life too.
Whether we like it or not, maybe the deal makes sense for Tiger Woods and presumably for Rolex. The proof will be if the public responds positively at the jewellery counter and sales go up.
Only time will tell.
Images by Keith Allison, Gorilla Golf Blog©