For broadcasters, sports brands, the Tiger Woods crash forces us to rethink | Business and economic news
The car crash that seriously injured Tiger Woods will force golf broadcasters and brands to face life without their biggest star sooner than expected.
Woods, 45, hasn’t been a reliable presence on the biggest golf scene in years, and the sport has started to move on to its new generation of athletes. But everyone from CBS and NBC to Nike and TaylorMade still hoped that Woods could rediscover the magic that made him one of the greatest athletes of his generation – and a magnet to millions of viewers.
Now, after Woods suffers potentially career-ending injuries, they might have to move on without him.
Woods was injured in a solo car crash on Tuesday after his SUV rolled over on steep terrain near Los Angeles. The golfer sustained significant injuries to his right leg and ankle and was rushed for emergency surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said he drove relatively fast but there was no evidence of impairment.
If the crash ends Woods’ playing career, several TV broadcasters will lose their biggest circulation. These include ViacomCBS Inc., which will air the Masters in April, where Woods always hoped to compete, and Comcast Corp., which broadcasts golf on the NBC broadcast network and the Golf Channel.
Discovery Inc. will need to adjust its plans for Woods, a key figure in its global expansion in golf broadcast and publishing. In 2018, Discovery struck a deal with Woods to give the star athlete a dedicated channel on GolfTV, a streaming service for fans of the sport. Woods would appear in instructional videos and behind-the-scenes footage showing how he’s preparing for tournaments, the company said at the time. In fact, Woods was about to shoot such a video at the time of the crash.
In 2019, Discovery purchased Golf Digest magazine, for which Woods also produces exclusive content, from Condé Nast to add more content to GolfTV and gain a foothold in the U.S. golf market. Discovery also owns the broadcast rights for the PGA Tour outside of the United States.
Woods has been the fundamental figure of golf since the mid-1990s. The golf audience soared whenever he was near the head. When Woods won the Masters in 2019, capping a remarkable return to the top of his sport, it was the largest audience for a morning golf show in 34 years, CBS said.
But in addition to the Masters victory, Woods struggled with injuries and inconsistent play that made it less likely that he was atop a leaderboard – robbing broadcasters of their audience star.
“From a television perspective, it has been almost a bonus in terms of viewership,” said Lee Berke, consultant in the sports media industry. “You didn’t know when he would come back or how good he would be.
Golf broadcasters have started to highlight a new group of longtime young stars like Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – though none dominate or garner as much interest. Woods was a singular phenomenon: In addition to his once dominant game, Woods broke the barriers of golf as a child prodigy with black and Asian heritage.
But after a decade marked by marital problems, drug addiction and injuries, Woods had lost several sponsors, including AT&T Inc., Gillette of Procter & Gamble Co. and Buick of General Motors Co.
Nike, who signed Woods when he turned pro in 1996, has stayed with him. And Woods found new sponsors, like Monster Energy; TaylorMade, which manufactures its clubs; and Bridgestone Corp., which manufactures its golf balls.
Their bets paid off when Woods won the 2019 Masters, generating more than $ 23.6 million in exposure for his business partners, according to sponsorship analysis firm Apex Marketing Group.
Now that kind of exposure will be harder to find.
“You won’t see the Nike logos on his jersey or him throwing a TaylorMade club or his Bridgestone ball in the cup,” said Bob Dorfman, director of sports marketing at Baker Street Advertising. “It will be a challenge for these companies.”
But Dorfman predicted that Woods’ sponsors would stay with him as long as he avoided the scandal and remained visible.
Woods could make “seven figures a year” in speaking engagements, appearance fees and souvenir offers, “even if he never plays in another tournament,” he said.
Many athletes, like George Foreman or Joe Namath, extended their pitching careers as long as their sports days were over.
Advertisers could even fit into Woods’ post-competitive life, like tracking his physical rehabilitation from recent injuries or counseling him about his son, another budding golf prodigy.
“It will be a great human interest story for every advertiser,” Dorfman said.