Broadcast Bogey: Tiger Not Out of Woods Yet

Tiger Woods’ infidelities may have caused inestimable damage to his value as a $100 million pitchman, but when the world’s greatest golfer walks away from the game, everyone feels the pinch.

Woods’ self-imposed hiatus will likely have the greatest impact on CBS, which this year will broadcast 20 PGA Tour events, including the Masters and the 91st PGA Championship. That said, Nielsen ratings for all PGA tournament coverage are likely to plummet as long as Woods sits out the 2009 campaign. (NBC will be exposed, as it carries the U.S. Open, and while ESPN/ABC Sports may expect a decline in their British Open deliveries, it should be noted that the world’s No. 1 player missed the cut at Turnberry this summer.)

According to Nielsen ratings data, Woods’ injury-shortened 2008 campaign saw PGA deliveries fall 46.8 percent versus the prior year. Sidelined by an ACL tear and a stress fracture in his left knee, the golfer missed every Tour event after his monumental U.S. Open win on June 15. In aggregate, broadcasters averaged 2.43 million viewers over the course of their Tiger-free PGA coverage, nearly half of what they drew in the prior-year period (4.57 million).

As one would guess, when “T. Woods” appears on the leaderboard, advertisers are willing to fork over a premium. Per TNS Media Intelligence data, when Woods appeared in a 2009 PGA Tour event, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $104,500. In his absence, that rate declined 30 percent, to $80,200 per spot. TNS’ numbers exclude the four Majors, which generally price out at around $200,000 per ad. The prestige of the Masters (and limited avails) make it the most expensive buy.

Woods plays in about 15 PGA events each year.

While it’s anyone’s guess when the 33-year-old will return to the links, the networks have a lot riding on Tiger Woods. According to TNS, sponsors in the first 10 months of this year invested $534.1 million on men’s PGA tourny inventory. (TNS’ data excludes Comcast’s Golf Channel, which televises some 150 tournaments each year.)

Should Woods elect to try and qualify for the season’s first major, the Masters — an event he hasn’t missed since 1996 — the networks will undoubtedly breathe a lot easier. But as he’s effectively shut himself off from the outside world, there’s no way of knowing when Tiger Woods will again don his Sunday red.

In the meantime, his endorsement deals are in flux. The global consulting firm Accenture, which last year spent $50.1 million on media, summarily dumped the golfer on Dec. 13. Woods appeared in 83 percent of Accenture’s advertising, per TNS, or about $41.5 million worth of the firm’s overall media outlay.

In a statement, Accenture said it had decided that Woods is “no longer the right representative for [our] advertising.” The partnership lasted six years.

That same week, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette decided to honor the golfer’s request for privacy, issuing a statement saying it will limit Woods’ role in its marketing. From January through October of this year, Gillette invested $159.1 million in measured media. Per TNS, Woods appeared in 9 percent of its creative, or just under $15 million worth.

One bright spot for the beleaguered Woods is Nike, which has said it will continue to stand by the golfer. “When his career is over, you’ll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now,” Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight told SportsBusiness Journal. Woods appears in just 4 percent of Nike’s ad efforts, which TNS pegs at $75.2 million through the first 10 months of this year.

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