Tiger Woods’s improbable Masters victory will reward the few companies that stuck with him through his struggles, and the ones that joined him when he was near the low point of his career.
The 43-year-old won his fifth Masters title on Sunday by one stroke. It’s his first major victory in over a decade and just his second PGA Tour victory in more than five years.
It’s also a win for his sponsors. During the final-round telecast, when he made a late charge, he generated more than $23.6 million in exposure for various corporate partners, according to sponsorship analytics firm Apex Marketing Group. Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing executive at Baker Street Advertising, cited Woods’s ability to bring even casual fans to their televisions.
“He moves the needle like no other golfer does or ever has done," Dorfman said, comparing Woods’s legendary status to that of Michael Jordan. “Nobody can do what he does and it’s amazing he’s been able to do it for as long as he has."
Woods’s return to the center of golf’s biggest stage will probably drive added interest in pro golf for awhile and generate even more attention for his corporate partners. It will also renew debate over whether a healthy Woods can return to the dominance of his early career, when he single-handedly boosted golf’s status around the world.
Tiger Woods now has 15 major titles, three shy of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18.
In the moments after Woods’s final putt on Sunday, longtime sponsor Nike Inc. released a video congratulating him on the feat, and highlighting his push to pass Nicklaus. The video uses audio from a 3-year-old Woods listing his golf aspirations.
“To think a 43-year-old who has experienced every high and every low, and has just won his 15th major, is chasing the same dream as a 3-year-old," the video says.
No company is more closely associated with Woods than Nike, which signed him when he turned pro back in 1996 and built its golf business around his stardom. Woods was once making $30 million per year from Nike, according to Forbes, but in 2016 the company announced it would stop making golf clubs, balls and bags. Nike is still Woods’s apparel partner -- the red Nike shirt he wore on Sunday is a familiar sight for most fans -- but over the past few years Woods has had to look elsewhere for ball and club partners.
During a decade marred by marital trouble, substance abuse, multiple surgeries and inconsistent play, most of the other brands that golf fans once associated with Woods either dropped him outright or failed to renew their partnerships when they lapsed. They include including AT&T Inc., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette, General Motors Co.’s Buick and watchmaker Tag Heuer.
In their place is a new stable of partners. Monster Energy drink has been branding Woods’s bag since 2016. TaylorMade is now his club sponsor; Bridgestone Corp. makes his golf balls. There are also smaller deals with Hero MotorCorp Ltd., an Indian motorcycle maker, and Kowa, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. Several of them sought to capitalize on the moment, with Monster Energy musing what a tiger’s favored color might be.
Nike -- apparel only (kept relationship) Upper Deck -- sports memorabilia (kept relationship) Bridgestone Golf -- golf balls since 2016, replacing Nike TaylorMade -- clubs since 2017,replacing Nike Monster Energy -- golf bag sponsor, since 2016 Kowa -- Japanese pain reliever, since 2011, first endorsement after scandal Hero -- India motorcycles, since 2014 Full Swing -- golf simulator, since 2015.
Sponsors in 2008:
Nike -- clothes and equipment; megadeal started in 1996 Upper Deck -- since 2001 AT&T, Accenture, Gillette, Gatorade -- all dropped him after scandal EA Sports -- Tiger video game ended a few years after scandal Buick/GM -- ended in 2008, after his last major but before scandal TLC Laser Eyes -- firm filed for bankruptcy in 2009 Tag Heuer -- expired in 2011.
During Sunday’s final round telecast on CBS, Woods’s prominent placement was a boon to many of those brands. Nike saw $22.5 million in exposure, according to Apex. Monster received $960,000, while Bridgestone saw $134,000. Those numbers will increase as highlights and print media push images of Woods’s win across the globe. They’ll also jump at later tournaments that receive a Woods boost in viewership and attention.
At the height of his career, Woods was making $110 million per year as the world’s highest paid athlete, including that $30 million from Nike, according to Forbes. Last year the magazine reported his earnings as $43.3 million, with just $1.3 million coming from endorsements.
For now, Woods sounded bewildered at his resurrection to top dog status.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words," Woods said after the win. “It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired."