January 25, 2010

The Tiger Woods effect hits the PGA in the pocketbook

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:36

Tiger Woods may be invisible at the moment, but the public reaction to his troubles appears to be contributing to further financial trouble for the PGA:

The troubles facing the professional-golf tour without Tiger Woods will be on display when the annual tournament tees off at the Torrey Pines course in San Diego this week: Ticket sales are down, fewer hospitality tents have been sold, and the title sponsor had to be lured with a cut-rate price.

It is a harbinger of what the PGA Tour may be without its most popular player. Three of the Tour’s 46 tournaments scheduled for 2010 don’t have a lead corporate sponsor, nor do 13 of next year’s tournaments. Television viewership of the first two events of this year’s Tour tumbled.

In past years, Mr. Woods, the game’s most popular player, usually skipped the first three tournaments and began play on the San Diego tournament’s seaside course, perched on scenic cliffs overlooking the Pacific. As Mr. Woods’s opener, San Diego became one of the highest-profile early events of each PGA Tour season. This year, Mr. Woods, caught up in a sex scandal, is on leave from the game, with no word on when he will return. Without his unmatched star power, the value of Tour sponsorships, through which companies cover most tournament prizes, could be sharply lower. And without a rich flow of cash from those sponsorships, the PGA Tour’s economic model is cracked.

This shows the danger inherent in having a single, iconic representative. If the icon stumbles, it has a severe knock-on effect.

December 2, 2009

Tiger’s beat(ing)

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:03

I don’t follow professional golf, so what little I knew of Tiger Woods was what the sportscasters managed to get in before I switched channels. I did think that he was an amazing golfer, and that he seemed to be well on his way to becoming the greatest golfer of his time (possibly of all time, depending on the measurement). So the sudden upheaval in his private life came as rather a surprise. According to Charles P. Pierce, there’s lots more surprises likely to be coming:

I can’t say I’m surprised — either by the allegations or by what’s ensued since Friday’s wreck. Back in 1997, one of the worst-kept secrets on the PGA Tour was that Tiger was something of a hound. Everybody knew. Everybody had a story. Occasionally somebody saw it, but nobody wanted to talk about it, except in bar-room whispers late at night. Tiger’s People at the International Management Group visibly got the vapors if you even implied anything about it. However, from that moment on, the marketing cocoon around him became almost impenetrable. The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheikhs and shakers. The perfect marriage with the perfect kids slipped so easily into the narrative it seemed he’d been born married.

Anything dissonant was dealt with quickly and mercilessly. Tiger’s caddy, an otherwise unemployable thug named Steve Williams, regularly harassed any spectator whom Williams thought might eventually harsh his man’s mellow. The IMG handlers differed from Williams only in that they were slightly more polite. The golfing press became aware that stories about Tiger’s temper, say, or about his ties to unsavory corporate grifters, would mean the end of access to the only golfer in the world who matters. There is a quick way to tell now which journalists have made this devil’s bargain and which ones haven’t — the ones insisting that this “accident” is somehow “not a story” are the sopranos in the chorus.

But the more impenetrable Tiger’s cocoon was, the more fragile it became. It was increasingly vulnerable to anything that happened that was out of the control of the people who built and sustained it, and the events of last week certainly qualify. Now he’s got one of those major Media Things on his hands, and there is nothing that he, nor IMG, nor the clinging sponsors, nor anyone else can do about it. He is going to be everyone’s breakfast for the foreseeable future. (Among his many headaches, there is absolutely no way that the Enquirer quits on this story. See Edwards, John.) And he’s going to be some kind of punch line for the most of the rest of his public career. There is some historical irony in all that, and not just for myself.

H/T to Matt Welch for the link.

Powered by WordPress