Tiger Woods' comeback drives him back to the top of the sponsorship game

The timing for Nike couldn’t have been any better. Four days before the 2018 Ryder Cup tees off, and the man it has backed for over 20 years, through thick and thin, is back to winning ways.

Tiger Woods' timely resurgence slotted in perfectly to Nike’s latest ‘Just Do It’ campaign, which now infamously launched with Colin Kaepernick. Nike’s latest Tiger-inspired post ran with the tagline, “Never stop chasing your crazy dreams”.

It is, in some way, a reward for Nike in staying by its man. And ahead of the Ryder Cup, all eyes are firmly on Woods. Just what the broadcast media were already thinking.

In terms of endorsements, Woods’ return to winning ways could certainly have an impact in increasing his current deals.

Wherever Woods goes, the camera follows. Because of this, he has always commanded large proportions of the broadcast coverage at events he’s played at, even if he wasn’t performing that well.

This has meant his sponsors have also benefited from extended airtime, in many cases generating higher media (or ad equivalency) values for brands than better performing players. Thanks to this, commercially, it’s meant he has managed to ride out the massive dip one might expect when a player drops to being ranked from first to 1,199th in the world.

Woods is still a big draw for sponsors: his current deals with Upper Deck, TaylorMade, Monster Energy, Bridgestone, Hero Motocorp, Nike and Rolex are worth $42m combined this year. That is the equivalent of NBA star Stephen Curry and only $5 million off what Cristiano Ronaldo is bringing in. Golf traditionally generates some of the biggest endorsement deals in sport, but as a player still working his way back to peak fitness after a substantial time out of the game that figure is incredibly impressive, and the hallmark of someone of legendary status.

Revenue from these endorsement deals far outweighs Woods’ prize money haul, which stands under $3m following his win at the Tour Championship last weekend.

10 years ago, in 2008 and at his peak, Woods' deals were worth over $100m a year. His Nike endorsement was an estimated $40m alone. While we’re unlikely to see his endorsement deals return to these stellar heights, his return to form will undoubtedly help.

What we are likely to see is the value of his current deals increase as well as a few new brands looking for a slice of the action. Sponsors will likely pay a premium to protect what access they have and now look to increase their activation with Tiger as more and more people tune back in to watch, what is hoped, will be his return to the top.

But how do sponsors make the most out of an endorsement like this?

In terms of a partnership, the viewing public usually sees the delivery, activation and exposure. But for brand managers, marketing directors and heads of partnerships of sponsors, understanding with complete certainty the return on investment and return on objectives of a deal is vital.

Measurement is key and it’s something I'm always asked about. Delivering a full, 360 vision of every aspect of a sponsorship, managing and tracking the allocation of benefits and monitoring the value of cash and value in kind contributions as part of a deal are what fuels successful partnerships today.

Our role is to deliver tools that mean brands and rights owners are able to spend less time on spreadsheets and more time activating their deals. And for brands watching Tiger and the exposure he affords back to them, these are all very important considerations.

Woods is likely to enjoy an extended amount of coverage at this weekend's Ryder Cup again, and much of the commentary will likely be on his upward trajectory. He’s a superstar talent who has come back from the jaws of defeat. From a kid on top of the world to a position of perhaps never picking up a golf club, his story is something sponsors go crazy for.

If Tiger Woods can continue to compete like we all know he can, and that is a big if, there is no doubt his endorsement deals could grow further still. To challenge and even win another major would be monumental. A chapter in the golf’s story yet to be written. Woods remains the 16th highest-paid athlete in 2018 and looking at his climb back from oblivion, you’d be a bold gambler to bet against him.

Sponsors looking to renew or to be a part of this sporting phenomenon, get the chequebooks at the ready.

Mark Thompson is managing director of sponsorship management business SponServe

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