Richard e Hill - a Writer's Journal

Par for the Course 11 Jan 10

Par for the Course (A letter to Public Radio)

I enjoy listening to KPBS locally and NPR nationally/internationally. Public radio, live or streamed is a welcome alternative to the mostly nodding heads, inane redundancy of sports talk radio. Sports talk radio: A good idea going bad. But that’s lunch for another day. As a fan of the public radio venues, I have grown accustomed to and expect accuracy and balanced presentation. I don’t have to be in accord because compelling discussion and discourse is the engine that drives and creates “good radio”. The January 5th program relating to golf icon Tiger Woods was below par (trite pun intended) while lacking factual content and sinking into the schadenfreude abyss where the principal dweller is sports talk radio. This is troubling on all accounts as I am an avid sports aficionado. The guests presented as marketing and consulting experts were inaccurate and left the perception (in my mind) as being biased. Before addressing my areas of concern these excerpts from the Wall Street Journal and ESPN are introduced as background and supporting elements:


1.      WSJ- Turmoil in the auto and financial services sectors at the end of last year (2008) left the sport vulnerable to the loss of marketing and advertising dollars, and 11 of the Tour's (Golf) title sponsors for 2009 came from the financial sector.

2.      ESPN (online) Many observers have asked whether Woods' late-night car wreck and alleged infidelities will affect his current endorsement deals, which comprise nearly 90 percent of his annual income. The answer is: Not so far, and probably not at all. For example, Woods is in the middle of a five-year deal with Nike worth more than $100 million, and on Wednesday (Dec 2009) that company issued a statement saying: "Nike supports Tiger and his family. Our relationship remains unchanged."

Reaction was nearly identical from Gatorade, where Woods inked a five-year pact reportedly worth up to $100 million in 2008. PepsiCo, Gatorade's parent company, put out a statement that said: "Tiger and his family have our support as they work through this private matter. Our partnership continues."

Electronic Arts, Gillette, Net Jets, TLC Vision -- all of them also have deals with Woods, and all also issued statements supporting him. No sponsors have dropped him. So the world of sports business is rapidly converging on one conclusion: "Over the medium- and long-term, the events of the past week will do absolutely nothing to damage Tiger's appeal to current or future sponsors," says Peter Marino, president of Dig Communications, a public-relations agency.

NOTE - (Some sponsors have exercised “good business" judgment in placing Woods image and association in abeyance during the off season for golf)


An examination of the sponsors that have altered their relationships with Tiger Woods et al, Tag Heuer, G2 product division of Gatorade, General Motors, and Accenture depicts:

1.      Tag Heuer – This luxury sports watch company has been feeling the effect of a down economy for some time. The watches are selling or attempting to sell at deep discounts in retail and online markets. The “knock off” market in Tijuana for these watches is so depressed that a pretty mesera (waitress) in a near border restaurant said she was going to re-gift the watch she received as part of a ‘propina’ (tip) to her 10-year old son.

2.      G2 sports drink – sales of this product were down 30% before “booty gate”, so “dropping” Tiger was a cost saver for an item where he had limited or no marketing impact.

3.      General Motors (Buick Division) dissolved its golf sponsorship in general and Woods in particular one year (2008) before “B G”.

4.      Accenture – This company formerly Andersen Consulting, a division of defrocked Arthur Andersen Accounting; the firm that audited the cooked crooked books for World Com, Waste Management, and Enron among others. (The Supreme Court recently overturned the Enron decision, but Andersen has been defunct since 2002.) The fruit does not fall far from the tree.


With respect to bias, the motives for the scrutiny of Woods image is questioned when you consider other sports and sports related celebrities getting a “pass” (this was not directed at Pittsburgh QB Big Ben, but it does fit). However, Chicago Bears nine times “Pro Bowl” line backer’s DNA confirmed paternity suit and threatening eMails by Brian Urlacher were forgiven as his jersey was ninth in sales in 2008 (he has been injured for nearly all of 2009). Last but not least is Top Ten List schtick comedian David Letterman. Letterman’s sexual liaisons with staffers has been given the proverbial ‘wink and nod’ while he regularly delivers jokes about Tiger Woods in his monologues. CBS TV is a primary vehicle for golf telecasts and of course, the David Letterman Show. The corporate world I was once a part of would have (and should have) “iced” him long ago. The acerbic New York Post gave Woods more consecutive front pages than 9-11, as good old Dave laughs all the way to the bank. I have this image of a guy standing around the symbolic water cooler, exchanging the latest Tiger jokes with his associates, having lunch at Hooters while objectifying women, going home and putting on his #54 Urlacher jersey while he washes the car, warning his son about that cheater Tiger Woods and then reloading fresh material from the Letterman monologue.

Bias? “Perception is reality”.



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