The media has relentlessly covered the Tiger Woods story, but lately, Woods’ presence as product pitchman has been scarce. In addition to Tiger’s personal troubles, Nielsen data shows that brands associated with the golfing great are becoming part of the collateral damage.
Going Negative Late at Night
Following Woods’ early morning SUV crash on Black Friday, Nielsen IAG measured more than 20 instances through Dec. 7, where a late-night joke paired Woods with one of his sponsors. As comedians took their swings at the golf icon, the mentions generated a higher-than-average recall of the associated brand (55 percent vs. a late-night norm of 39 percent).
Higher brand recall can often be good news, but in Woods’ case, the data provides evidence of a higher than expected negative shift in viewer opinion for those brands. On average, about 6 percent of viewers recalling a brand mention in a late-night show report a negative opinion. In the case of Woods’ sponsors, the negative shift was 11 percent.
“Brands associated with Tiger are now working with a double-edged sword,” notes Randall Beard, evp, gm at Nielsen IAG. “The saturation of Tiger in the media has heightened the recognition of his sponsor affiliations. But at the same time for these brands, the controversy is contributing to a more negative impact on public perception. It’s the age-old debate: Is all publicity good publicity?”
Brand Association and Buzz
With the steep rise in the use of consumer-generated media, everyone is a publicist, and consumer opinion online also shows a shift toward the negative for Woods. Data from a Nielsen Buzzmetrics Brand Association Map analyzed language in online chatter centered around Woods and found that prior to the scandal, adjectives like “great,” “good” and “best” dominated along with other sports-related terms. But scanning conversations 10 days after the scandal broke, words like “voicemail,” “mistress” and “affair” drowned out positive or neutral commentary.
A Rising Tiger Lifts All Brands
If the short-term public perception of Woods lingers, it may cause long-term issues for sponsors. Prior to the controversy, when Woods was featured in a TV ad, sponsors on average saw a 16 percent higher recall of the commercial itself, along with a 22 percent higher brand recall, and a 39 percent higher net likability when compared to ads from those brands that did not feature Woods.
Just as his presence in TV ads matters, Woods’ presence on the PGA Tour has been a ratings winner in the past. A study conducted by Nielsen when Woods returned from injury last February, showed that the ratings in the tournaments where Woods did not play were down 47 percent compared to the previous year. In this sense, the star’s marketing impact extends to all PGA advertisers, not just the ones who have exclusive deals for him with apparel, grooming, games, financial services, automobiles and sports drinks.