Woods counts cost of scandal as television adverts disappear
Golf star plummets 18 places on list of industry's most valuable 'faces'
Wednesday 09 December 2009
Dented or otherwise, would you buy a used car from Tiger Woods? What about a flashy Tag Heuer watch? Or a Gillette razor? And would you take his financial advice by going shopping with an American Express card and getting your taxes done by the men in suits from Accenture?
Once, consumers unhesitatingly splashed out on the driving maestro's recommendations. But these days, they aren't so sure. The first sign that being the world's most famous philanderer will seriously harm the earning power of the world's finest golfer emerged yesterday, with news that television advertisements featuring Woods have mysteriously vanished from the American airwaves.
According to Nielsen, the last commercial featuring Woods, a 30-second spot endorsing Gillette, ran on November 29th, two days after a late night car crash sparked wave after wave of revelation about his extra-marital affairs. His ranking on the Davie Brown Index, which US advertising agencies use to rank 2,700 celebrity endorsers, is also in freefall. For years, Woods has been the industry's sixth most valuable "face", sandwiched between Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby, and earning an estimated $110m [£69m] a-year from endorsements. Now he's suddenly dropped to 24th, one spot below Julia Roberts.
The news came after Gatorade, a sports drink manufacturer owned by Pepsi, confirmed that it had decided to discontinue "Tiger Focus", a flavoured product introduced in 2007 after what Golfweek magazine reported as a $100m deal that would last for five years.
Pepsi's PR department insisted that the move had nothing to do with recent incidents. "We decided several months ago to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus along with some other products to make room for our planned series of innovative products in 2010", read a statement. They would not comment on whether the relationship with Woods would continue.
Officially, all of the corporate giants who pay tens of millions each to have Woods as their "face" still claim to be happy with the business relationship. The firms – who include AT&T, EA Sports, Accenture, Gillette, Nike, and a private jet company called Netjets – would have consumers believe that the sudden disappearance of their TV ads featuring the once-ubiquitous star is a mere coincidence. But a total of eleven women have now been identified as former mistresses of Mr Woods, including two pornographic actresses and several cocktail waitresses and nightclub hostesses, and his squeaky-clean image is unlikely to recover.
Yesterday, Jaimee Grubbs, whose voicemail message from Mr Woods warning her that his wife was on the warpath over their relationship has already been leaked, shared intimate messages from the star with the New York Post. One read: "I need you". Another promised simply: "I will wear you out".
It was also claimed that Rachel Uchitel, the woman first identified as responsible for the marital row that saw Woods pursued from his home by a golfclub-wielding wife, has emails from the star saying: "I finally found someone I connect with, someone I have never found like this. Not even at home. Why didn't we find each other years ago?"
Adultery isn't the only alleged transgression clouding the golfer's horizon. Police say he refused to give a blood sample after being admitted to hospital, following reports that he'd consumed alcohol and taken prescription drugs on the day before the notorious crash.
Woods has still not ventured out in public, and his only statements about the scandal have been delivered in writing on his personal website.
"He cannot just remain silent, out of sight," public relations expert Mike Paul told the New York Times. "He should have done a one-on-one interview within the first 24 to 48 hours. He should have done something like Oprah, and he needs to soon."
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