Tiger Woods Fiasco Has Important Lessons for Ad Agencies

Until now, I’ve resisted weighing in on Tiger Woods’ marital woes. Like a lot of people, I already know more about his escapades than I wish I did. Still, there are some important lessons ad agencies can glean from this fiasco.

I can’t recall ever seeing a person’s reputation fall so quickly and dramatically, followed closely by sponsors dropping this hot potato left and right.

I found it interesting that earlier this month Ad Age ran a story saying some people in the sports-marketing industry were speculating that Tiger’s newfound notoriety “might actually redound to the benefit of the brands he endorses.”

One PR expert suggested Tiger could rebound if he and his wife stay together and he keeps winning. Apparently, winning covers a multitude of sins, at least according to this line of reasoning.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out that way for Tiger, and now there are question as to whether he will ever play golf again professionally.

One of the most obvious lessons to be learned is that in a crisis, stonewalling doesn’t work very well. Especially when you’re someone famous, the media will dig out the truth and put you in a reactive mode.

A second lesson is the risk companies take in sponsoring an individual. When Tiger’s favorability ranting in 2000 was the highest in poll history at 88%, having a close corporate tie no doubt seemed like a good idea. In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, his favorability dropped to 33% — a 55-point swing from his peak.

Perhaps the most important lesson, though, is that in an age when tolerance reins supreme, there still are some things most people won’t tolerate from celebrities, and repeatedly cheating on one’s spouse with multiple partners is one of them.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

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