December 15th, 2009
04:20 PM ET

Why Nike will stand by their Tiger

Nike's decision to stand firmly beside Tiger Woods while others like Accenture and Gillette move away should come as no surprise.

Tiger Woods has helped Nike build their brand in the competitive golf equipment sector.
Tiger Woods has helped Nike build their brand in the competitive golf equipment sector.

Unlike Woods's tie-up with Accenture, which comes in the form of a comprehensive advertising campaign, Nike's deal with the world number one pretty much carries their entire investment in the golf equipment market. He is their golf industry all in one.

When I interviewed Nike Golf President Bob Wood in 2007 and discussed the relationship with Tiger on the back of another seven-year-deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars, here's how he summed it up:

"[When] you go back to the beginning. We had made shoes and some apparel for about 12 years before we signed Tiger. But I can pretty much say today and I've said it to him, I don't think we'd be in the golf business if it wasn't for Tiger," he explained.

You can see why Nike Chairman Phil Knight was on the front foot on Monday backing their prized asset and indeed hoping the scandal surrounding his off-course movements prove to be a “blip.”

"I think he has been really great. When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now," he said.

It’s not just right now that everything to do with Tiger is a “big deal.” When you are the biggest marketing tool the game has ever had - Woods time as a professional has seen the USPGA Tour prize money grow from $80 million annually to this year's total of $280 million - then the risk of losing him becomes a massive deal.

When he stepped away from the game to recover from knee surgery there was not so much panic but real concern for the health of everybody involved in the industry, not just Nike. Interest in the game fell sharply, especially on U.S. television where numbers dropped by as much as 60 per cent.

Nike’s decision to enter the challenging equipment market about seven years ago, to go head-to-head with established brands like MacGregor, Titleist, Callaway and Cobra came with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development, design and distribution.

Tiger was key, and still is, to their marketing because he brought not just exposure for the brand but credibility to the design of the clubs and balls. “Sometimes you get asked 'how much do you sell because of Tiger?' and it's like I just sort of attribute us being as serious as we are and as important as we are to the relationship we have with him,” Bob Wood said to me in 2007.

“It's kind of a fact of life at Nike that when you have somebody that is that important, when you consider yourself a product company and a sports company, you're making product…you know we make the stuff he makes his living with. And we can't make bad product.”

By the time Tiger comes back to playing he will more than likely be still world number one so it will take a lot more than a few personal demons to scare Nike away from Tiger Woods with so much on the line.

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Filed under:  Golf
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Alehandro

    Good luck to Tiger maintaining his endorsements; good luck to Tiger maintaining his status in the game; good luck to Tiger maintaining his marriage, because on all three counts he's gonna need it!

    December 15, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  2. John Walker

    I respect Bob Wood's decision to stick with Tiger Woods. Tiger's personal life can not discredit the Nike image. Once Tiger Woods is back on the golf scene, Nike can look forward to a long term ROI. Who really care's about his personal life but the media, and those with boring lives. Nevertheless, Tiger will need to win his matches in order to keep Nike interested which is normal!

    December 15, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  3. perrucho

    "As a minor thing"??? In which world do you live, dude? What are your moral and ethical values, if any? If having your wife and children waiting for you alone and lonely at home, while you mess around with women, whose worthiness is very questionable, is a "minor" thing, you deserve very little respect as a person. Of course, money is more important than any values now-a-days. I wonder how you would feel if your wife messed around with a dozen men while you are on business trips...

    December 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  4. Francis

    Well done, NIKE!
    Elin (enjoy-your-future-in-the-Swedish-sticks) Woods, please take note. Standing by your man isn't all that painful.
    Make the call, Tiger ... call the moving truck for the Mrs. and invite the NIKE Team into your home as your future committed partner.

    December 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  5. Tony Tate

    After a long thought proccess about the Tiger Woods dilema that he finds him and his family in I have come to this conclusion. After all he has done good and the deads are many and we are still counting them, He is just a human being capable of making human mistakes. I would never condone what he has done but, I do understand how it could happen. We all must take a little blame in that we all worked so hard to make him larger than life to only find out he is not. Are we more disapointed in him or our selves? For me, Its the biggest lead I have ever seen any body lose with. It makes Greg and Phil's calapses look like and awsome second place finish. Tiger Woods is the biggest story in golf on and off the course. Just the same way Bobby, Byron, Gary, Jack and Arnold were in there prime. But Tiger has a greater burdon then them all. That is living up to promise of being better than them all. He has the chance to set the bar so high it may never be reached again. The greatest difference between Tiger and the games greats is, they never had to change the course to give the rest the field a chance to at least make second place look closer than it really was. As for Elin, I feel sorry for her but the children even more. At least Elin, had a choice and knew the risk of marring a mega star. It will be years before the children realize the icon the father is to sports.

    December 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  6. Chiedozie I Abarikwu

    Nike's spirit is incredible.'it will take a lot more than a few personal demons to scare us from Tiger',sums it all.they(Nike) have proved to be more than partners,but true friends.looking forward to seeing Tiger back soon,stronger than the 'Tiger' he has proved himself to be over these years.

    December 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  7. John Nghiwete

    This is what true friendship is all about, we will stand by you old friend...

    December 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  8. Peter Giliam

    Tiger has a lot to take care of in the next while and I really feel for the guy and his family, whatever demons are chasing them right now. I have to say 'hats off' and compliments to Nike though. In this fast paced 'quick buck' world we live in now I find your thinking and approach a breath of fresh air. At last someone has the guts, fortitude and foresight to stand up for a truly great sportsman who has to get himself 'out of the woods' so to say. OK, so he messed up. I am pleased at least you guys are standing by him.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  9. Esteban

    Tiger as a man is like everyone of us, with strenghts and weaknesess, specially in this world where temptation is a main thing. But whatever he does with his private life either right or wrong is not our business.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  10. Geo

    Three quick comments: One, Good job Nike. Two, Tiger may be a golf God but he is human like all of us and no one is perfect, well maybe Sarah Palin. Three, in any relationship, regardless of who strays (husband or wife), what caused them to stray? Turn the focus on the other spouse.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  11. Maria Sanderson

    Well, that comment by Phil Knight insures that I will never buy Nike stuff again. Stand by him all you want...he's made hundreds of millions for Nike and pretty much built the reputation of Nike golf. But calling the deception, the decadence, the immorality, the misogyny, and the lack of character that encompasses Tiger's entire personality and lifestyle "a minor blip" is a complete affront to women everywhere.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  12. torinvest

    no one can dismiss his talents as a golfplayer, but I think he has been a role model to many young women and men. this image must unfortunately been heavely damaged. I also believe there will be more questionagle things about his life that will be revealed and they might turn out to be nasty.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Reply
  13. Jenkins Dagba


    December 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Reply
  14. Peter Huang

    Francis has said it all for us. What a good idea, which can clear all the cloud and uncertainties from present chaos for Tiger Woods and all his fans. Maybe Tiger Woods need such a friend like you by his side at present to cheer him up and come back to the golf course sooner.

    December 15, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  15. Jim F

    I have an eleven year-old son that is a realtive phenomenon here in Italy. Tiger was his idol. I will never buy another Nike product for him or me ever again. I have already spent thousands. I am happy to be free to buy the other brands again, without disappointing my son.

    Thank you Tiger, and thank you Nike.

    December 15, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  16. Bernard

    IMHO Nike don't really have a choice. They are so tied into the whole Tiger deal that they have no choice but to support him. For goodness sake Nike, 'blip on the radar'? There are >14 women from porn stars to waitresses. What does this say about character, the Nike brand and the values Nike represents?

    Product and company endorsements are not made simply on sports performance – it is a total package based on performance and character. Especially with a game such as golf – which is supposed to be a game which embodies fair play, playing by rules and decency.

    I like Nike products but will not purchase Nike Golf products now because of the clear lack of ethics displayed.

    Tiger is a supreme sportsman, but his behaviour is so poor that I fail to see how any world class company, with an iconic brand could associate themselves with him. From an endorsement perspective Tiger is damaged goods and until such time as he has done the hard yards and redeemed himself, I don't think he should be associated with companies brands.

    Elin Nordgren and her children deserve everyones support, best wishes and prayers. This is not simply t-shirts and shoes we are talking about. We are talking about her life which has been turned upside down and a family with 2 small children that has been damaged. How on earth Nike can describe this as a 'blip' mystifies me.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  17. Kelsy

    Of course Nike will stand behind Tiger Woods – he is their cash cow. Personally I will no longer buy any Nike products as this company has no morals. This is a great role model. He may be the best golfer of all time – but in his personal life he is a total failure. Think again Nike!

    December 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  18. sudani

    I thought only we in the islamic world have stupid painful complexes about sex !!!! .. and let me even tell you this : here in sudan sport stars are well known for their adventures with women , and people even like them more when hering these stories .. sudan is a seriosly conservative country but no politician here will lose votes because he slept with somebody

    December 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  19. Esteban

    Further to my last comment, it all turns out to be about money.
    What is it about this scandal? simple media gets a higher rating, magazines and newspapers sell a lot more, just to satisfy the morbidity of human beings but at the end no one cares about Tiger.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  20. Fred May SR

    How many skeletons are in the closets of other sports greats that we never have heard about or ever will. Let the young couple solve this on their own. Let the media keep their noses out of it. Lets all hope the solution is there. Good luck Elin and Tiger. May God be with you.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  21. bharath honnegowda

    what Tiger has done to his personal life is a very serious issue, but he is still a normal human being who commits mistakes. The media always wants some news to have there ratings high and thats the reason for all the hype surrounding his person life. leave him for some time please don't destroy him. He will come back strongly and i am sure he will be a better person and a bigger sport star at whom any young golfer can look up to. There can be only one Tiger. Tiger Rocks!!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  22. Bob Dole

    Nike stuck with Kobe through his sexual assault case, and they stuck with Jordan through the gambling/divorce (though that wasn't as big a deal). Their products will still sell, and they'll make even more when Tiger returns "clean", makes good, etc. And they'll make ads about Tiger overcoming more difficulties, etc.
    All that is fair enough, Tiger means more to golf than any athlete has ever meant to a (high profile) sport, and that's been the case for so long, and will continue to be until he retires or/and someone of his caliber comes along.
    And I don't think Tiger deserves half the criticism he gets, adultery in professional sports is nothing new, with all the events he goes to all around the globe away from his wife, all the pressures he's under to be "perfect", perhaps even the challenge/thrill of the adultery itself, etc. Also the way the media talk about it makes it sound like he is some sort of disgusting sex offender!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  23. Drdav

    While i somewhat side with perrucho on the ethics that are involved in sports today, you must look at a monitary aspect of things. Yes what he did was wrong and we can all agree with that, however ther is no reason for the compnaies to pull there endorsements due to a few PERSONAL improprieties. Let his personal life be his personal life and then if it starts to affect his professional life then it should be exammend only by those with the authority (i.e. nike, gillet etc.) to say whether it's correct of not. Nike did a great job in showing confidence in one of there star player by letting the rest of the world know what the bulk of us already see: It was a human mistake and get over it. Tiger, hurry back to the golf scene. Shake this off and do what you've invested your life in.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Reply
  24. Sids72

    To nike it is all about money. They would like to kick woods wife under the carpet, don't care about what he's done to her and the kids at all.I wonder how Phil Knight would respond if his wife had multi studs. I say boycot nike and woods..!!

    December 16, 2009 at 12:23 am | Reply
  25. Jason

    Since when America become land of saints? You don’t need to go back too far beyond Kennedys, Clinton, Edward, Rev Jackson.. not to mention dozens of celebrities. Sex outside marriage with consenting adults isnt a crime. Is it right? No. Is it immoral? Yes. But who am I to judge someone? If Tiger wasn’t rich & famous no one would talk about it, most people talking/writing about him are'nt doing it for morality they either envy him or trying to make a quick buck in ratings like the girls claiming to be his mistress. If he starts playing tomorrow there will be thousands and millions who will watch him, how many people will come to see these so called do gooders?
    This is getting boring, move on find something else to do in life

    December 16, 2009 at 12:49 am | Reply
  26. phil

    I think nike's decision is a great one. In times like this, Tiger needs all the support he can get and that's what nike is offering. What he did was bad, but let him without sin cast the first stone. It's a shame to think that simply removing his face from adverts will dissociate from brands he had represented for long. Thumbs up nike.

    December 16, 2009 at 10:20 am | Reply
  27. charity

    woods private life shouldn't be our business, moreover everyone has past to think of, no one is perfect. let the media leave my brother alone and stop using this means to say rubbish things about him in order to make sales of their paper.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:27 am | Reply
  28. Ike

    Very well put, Jason ... I think in the throes of the media hype around this issue everyone is forgetting that what Woods committed is probably a sin (of course depending on your religion) or immoral (but then again like u say – who am I to judge?) but NOT a crime.

    People say Tiger projected a squeaky clean image, but I never heard him say he was infallible. The media built this image around a man who doesnt speak much and now wants to bring him down.

    Finally, if the media were truly worried about Elin and their kids ... perhaps allowing them a bit of privacy would be a good idea? Of course if Elin's feeding the media beast then what can one say?

    December 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  29. Young K. MOE

    Nobody is perfect. Tiger is humanbeing. Nike's decisionis wonderful. Hope Tiger will be back soon,

    December 16, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  30. Chris

    I praise Nike for their commitment to Woods in these dark days for him but also for his wife. But as Clinton Portis said Tigers wife must have known of these affairs long time ago. And though the recent outcome is shocking for us it wasn't for his wife. Mabe Tiger needed this scandal as an eye opener but we don't know the insights.
    My respect however has grown for Nike and Tag Heuer since they are committed to woods and are not acting as cowardly as Accenture and Gillette. Instead of running away you should offer help and show as a company that you can stand by your man in good and bad times.
    I Wonder if Accenture and Gillette will also drop their employees so easily if it goes bad for a while??? RESPECT TO NIKE.

    December 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  31. Gloria Bugembe

    THUMBS UP FOR NIKE!!!!!!!! for standing by TIGER our greatest sporsman of our time.Whatever happened,he will remain the greatest golfer of our time.After all, his personal life has nothing to do with you who are making a big fuss about it.Tiger is a human being like anybody of us. Lets give him support and time to recover from it other than blowing it out of proportion.His family and himself deserve space and respect.Why do you talk about his money if you are not jelous???? Thats his gift from GOD.
    Thank you Tiger for using your treasure from God.I cant wait to see you back on the court, striking the ball like a TIGER. Be strong and firm you will get over it. THUMBS UP AGAIN FOR NIKE!!!!!!!!!

    December 16, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Reply
  32. Chan Or

    Elin, learn from Hilarry Clinton! Don't allow the sensational media to destroy you and your marriage. Hilarry stood firm, and today she is the better for it. Tiger is human. After this mistake he will come back stronger and greater. After all Bill Clinton still strides like a collosus across the globe. Let he or she who has not sinned cast the first stone.

    December 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  33. Louis

    Nike is a sports company, they need to stick with Tiger, otherwise who would they turn to? On the other hand Accenture and Gillette need not. They did not even needed him on the first place, but well, they went for it, for his image of success and glory. They must be thanking the gods for being able to end these contracts at this moment in time for a justifiable reason. Cash is king!

    December 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  34. Diana

    he made a mistake, he's human. he never said he was perfect. he never tried to be on the spotlight. he made a mistake and was trying to sort it out with his family, as all of us do. he made a mistake and the press destroyed him.

    there should be a law on what kind of things are newsworthy.

    December 16, 2009 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  35. easytuger

    come on negative people!!!!he is human like all of us.i m nt saying it s right to do all that but let us forget about all that and life should go on.i respect the guy very much and i adore s nt easy to get there.i cheerished too him too much.he ids nt going to be the first and for sure the last of this kins kind oh mess.let us forgive him and let him live his life.thank u NIKE,that s the way it suppose to be.u dont turn ur back on someone when he or she really needs media please!!!!please!!!!!i know for sure if we want to investigate everyone s ok...GO TIGER,I M WITH U TILL THE END.

    December 17, 2009 at 6:17 am | Reply
  36. Desiree

    What does the expression, "He is human" have to do with being paid a billion dollars to actually try and represent something special? Are humans not allowed to have any standards of behavior at all? Does being human mean that anything goes? Does being human mean that even if you accept a billion dollars to be a representative for a corporation, you can do whatever you want behind the scenes? No one made him take the billion. He could have just been a golfer and had sex with every woman on Earth and no one would care. Please stop equating "being human" with having no ability to behave in the correct manner.

    December 17, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  37. Alehandro

    Nike will drop Tiger like a hot tamale if this scandal ends up affecting their sales. It's all well and good pledging their support now while they're unsure what the future holds and they have so much invested in Tiger, but in the end, it will all come down to the bottom line. To firms like Nike Tiger is a commodity not a friend, and if the Tiger line stops selling it will be adios amigo. And on another issue, it's interesting that people keep criticising the media for covering the story purely to increase sales or viewership, because if people weren't interested that couldn't happen could it? So all those taking the high moral ground over the coverage should stop being hypocrites. The public is clearly getting what the public wants.

    December 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  38. nellybell

    I believe the problem with Tigers issues wont go away because he decides to take a break. If he doesn't keep going to fund raisers and eventually give an interview to some reporter that will treat him ,more or less, o.k., his issues will be revisited when he comes back. This will not go away until he decides to show his fans the respect they have given him for his talent throughout his career.

    December 18, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  39. Taiwo

    Jesus said, "...he who has not sinned, let him cast the first stone..." The system is full of hypochrisy. Even a one-time US President philandered. Did the world come to an end? The man is right now one of the most sought-after international speaker.

    People are prone to mistakes. We all are human beings. And does it mean that if someone made a mistake he cannot make good again?

    I wish some of these reporters who break scandal stories would have the searchlight beamed on their lives and you'll see worse sleaze come into view. Unfortunately, their lives can never make any big news. That's why they always relish pulling stars down.

    Bad news sells and the tabloids make more money from bad news and gossips. But mark my words: Tiger will bounce back big time!

    December 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  40. Invisible

    May God Almighty Guide and Protect Tiger and his wife in this difficult moment of their life,they form a really good couple and may the press give them some privacy pleaseeeeeee.its not a strange thing right??? what will it benefit you all criticising him when he loses his family????

    December 22, 2009 at 11:55 am | Reply
  41. Ben

    All you people who are so harsh at judging Tiger, and claiming he was a role model for young people everywhere, teach your young about human weaknesses and learn to be compassionate. You be their role model, not a stranger who happens to be good at Golf. Nike supports Woods on a professional level since they have no business digging into his personal life. Love and falling out of love is a part of life, we don't need to look to complete strangers to get our personal ethos.Look into your own life, you will find many imperfections there as well, don't be so hard on yourself. Be happy.

    December 24, 2009 at 3:54 am | Reply
  42. NonGolfer

    So much time and energy spent on things like this. Too bad it can't be spent on the needy!!

    December 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  43. morgan thomas

    Why wouldn't Nike stand by Tiger. He is a winner,on the links,with the women,with the press. It's a no brainer.

    December 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  44. Jide Labiyi

    Tiger's seemingly deceptive utterances about his moralty in no way makes him an exception. We all have things we cherish and believe in, but Tiger like most of us find it difficult to match words with action. Tiger's unprecedented exploitsin golf and sports and not his faithfulness as a husband made him who he is today and also probably got him his wife. However, only Tiger and his wife are capable of dealing with whatever marital challenges they face. The American press remains the biggest beneficiary of the ample opportunity to cash-in on "Brand Tiger" for free.

    December 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  45. gnosis

    Please let the Tiger have some rest he wouldnt even value your weak comments or opinion he plays to win

    December 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  46. Gracied

    I read so many of the blog coments and honestly Tiger I feel for you. You are an incredible golfer that has done so much for the golfing comminuty and so many other organizations that you have supported. You are a human, yes you are truly sorry and it is hard to admitt you need help but so many other people need help like you. You are a good peson you just made some bad choices, concentrate on moving into the future and put the past behind you.

    February 19, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  47. Sam

    Nike is screwed with Woods or without him.

    April 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  48. mbtshoes

    This is what true friendship is all about

    September 18, 2010 at 7:39 am | Reply

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