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Keeping Score Behind the Brand Fall-out of Tiger’s Tale
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Keeping Score Behind the Brand Fall-out of Tiger’s Tale

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 December 7 where a late night joke paired Woods with one of his sponsors. As comedians took their swings at Woods, the mentions generated a higher-than-average recall of the associated brand (55% vs. a late night norm of 39%). 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% of viewers recalling a brand mention in a late night show report a negative opinion. In the case of Tiger Woods’ sponsors, the negative shift was 11%.

“Brands associated with Tiger are now working with a double-edged sword,” notes Randall Beard, EVP & General Manager, 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 towards 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, 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 longer term issues for sponsors. Prior to the controversy, when Tiger Woods was featured in a TV ad, sponsors on average saw a 16% higher recall of the commercial itself, along with a 22% higher brand recall, and a 39% 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 Tiger returned from injury last February, showed that the ratings in the tournaments where Woods did not play were down 47% compared to the previous year. In this sense, Tiger’s marketing impact extends to all PGA advertisers, not just the one who have exclusive deals for him with apparel, grooming, games, financial services, automobiles, and sports drinks.

* This summary analysis is based on Persons 13+, from 9/22/08 to 11/29/09. Included advertisers are EA video games, Nike, Gatorade and Gillette. Note: Accenture or Tag Heuer not included because all measured commercials for those advertisers during time period contain Tiger Woods.