Tiger Woods could win the U.S. Open this weekend and complete the comeback that may move him back into the spot as the world’s number one golfer, a position he held for years. Some of the sponsors who deserted him because of his bad social behavior will kick themselves for their decisions. First on that list is Accenture (NYSE: ACN), which used Woods as the face of its consulting business because older men who are also executives remain, as they have been forever, the primary audience for big-time golf.
Woods will acquire some new sponsors if he finishes his climb. The draw will be irresistible because he receives more airtime than any other golfer — or any athlete for that matter. Who will top of the list of companies that would pay to be on Woods’s bag? Probably those with reputation problems of their own they are desperate to solve.
First among those companies is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), which has as bad a reputation with investors, consumers and corporate clients as any financial firm. Woods’s new image could rub off on the bank, which tried to pick the pockets of its retail customers with $5 fees and take advantage of many of its mortgage applicants.
Next on the list would be Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S), which has been overcome for years by the success of competitors AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless. Investors despise the company because of its plunging stock price. It continues to lose more subscribers each year. Woods could carry a Sprint cellphone during his rounds, if the PGA will let him.
Three other firms will be at the top of the list. Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), which faces credit agency downgrades, bad press because of its balance sheet trouble and a sharp increase in the cost to raise money, needs to improve its image. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) has been battered by charges its CEO took advantage of the company’s drilling activity while its board stood by and took no action. And, finally, there is Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which will be mired in bribery accusations and investigations for year.
A company that should be added to the list because of very recent problems is JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM).
So, there are plenty of companies with reputation and customer problems that could benefit from Woods’s own rise from disgrace. The famous golfer is about to add several logos to his bag, hat and shirt.
Douglas A. McIntyre