Tiger Woods won the last tournament of the golf season, the Tour Championship. He also nearly won the FedEx Cup prize of $10 million, which is based on the results of the entire season. Both made it certain that, as he won the 80th PGA tournament of the year, his sponsors received a mammoth benefit. More sponsors are likely to flock to him very soon.
Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) and several sponsors that stayed with Woods after a series of personal and professional disasters, or have been added to his sponsor’s list recently, have reaped huge rewards as the season progressed and will continue to do so.
Along with his recent win, he has posted several near misses in an attempt to get his first victory in five years. He has had the Nike logo on his shirt and hat during most if not all tournaments. The TV attention over this period has made it certain that his sponsors got unprecedented time in front of network cameras. In the last round of the Tour Championship, that exposure soared.
Although Woods and his legacy are the primary beneficiaries of his return to golf, these sponsors are a close second.
Most of his largest sponsors left him after his well-publicized personal problems in 2010, when he was in his prime. Then a number of injuries pushed him out of contention. During this period, Nike was the sole major sponsor who stayed with Woods. Founder Phil Knight was said to be the final decision maker about this, as loyalty overcame concerns. Nike’s gamble has paid off tremendously.
Last December, Woods’s golf ranking dropped to number 1,199 among the world’s players after his troubles and inability to play because of injuries. Earlier in his career, he spent a record 683 consecutive weeks at number one, the most ever. Even when his ranking was at or near its bottom, several new sponsors joined him. Among these were TaylorMade, one of the world’s large golf equipment makers; energy drink maker Monster Beverage; Japanese tire and golf ball maker Bridgestone; and some obscure ones that include golf simulator company Full Swing, pharmaceutical company Kowa and sports memorabilia company Upper Deck. These are a far cry from the ones who left him: AT&T, Accenture, Gillette and Gatorade.
The Tour Championship win made him the 13th ranked golfer in the world, at age 42. The only person much older than Woods at that level is Phil Mickelson, a fan favorite and winner of 43 PGA events, which puts him ninth on the all-time wins list. Woods trails Sam Snead, with 80 wins to 82. But Snead played for 30 years, while Woods has played for 18.
Now that he is back at the center of the golf world, Woods is bound to pick up more sponsors. If he stays in his current form, they will get a big return on their investment.