Experts: Accenture Was Right to Drop Woods

With Accenture’s announcement this weekend that it has dropped Tiger Woods as its marketing pitchman, analysts are questioning whether others will soon follow suit.

“Given the circumstances of the last two weeks, after careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined [Woods] is no longer the right representative for its advertising,” Accenture wrote on its Web site. The global technology consulting firm said it “will immediately transition to a new advertising campaign,” with the bulk of the effort to launch next year.

The move is a major blow for Woods, who earns approximately $110 million in annual endorsements. (Others include AT&T, Nike and Procter & Gamble’s Gillette. AT&T and Gillette have already stopped running ads featuring Woods.) Accenture, which shelled out $21 million in U.S. advertising, minus online, through September of this year, per Nielsen, is also the first of several high-profile sponsors to publicly break ties with the golfer.

Lee Igel, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, said Accenture’s decision to drop Woods was a logical one. Unlike other advertisers, such as Nike, which sells sneakers, or Gillette, which had Woods marketing its razors, Accenture’s brand image was at risk because Woods “totally knocked down his whole image—high class, clean cut—and it aligned very much with what Accenture was trying to look like as a company,” Igel said. “There is a connection between [Woods] and the business that they do. All of a sudden, athletes aren’t so far off from Wall Street executives.”

Ann Green, svp-marketing solutions at WPP-research arm Millward Brown, sees Accenture’s move as a quick—and fitting—response to Woods’ decision to walk off the golf course last Friday. “Part of the reason why [so many advertisers] were associated with Tiger in the first place is because he was at the top of his game.” And now, with Woods taking a vacation from golf, “many marketers won’t be able to benefit from those positive associations,” Green added.

A study published by Millward Brown last week found that negative buzz surrounding Tiger Woods was significantly higher in the week immediately after reports of his extramarital affairs. Whereas Woods’ buzz scores were 81 (positive) and 2 (negative) in the weeks preceding the scandal, on Dec. 3 and 4, those numbers were almost entirely reversed: 19 (positive) and 80 (negative).

As is often the case, negative associations tend to stay with a celebrity for some time, Green said.

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