With Tiger Woods taking an indefinite leave from golf, companies that have endorsement deals with him will have to evaluate whether staying with Tiger is in their best interests.
Gillette announced Saturday that it would "phase the world's most valuable athlete out of its advertisements while he takes time off to repair his personal life," according to the Associated Press.
Nike, Woods's biggest corporate partner, issued a statement Friday night that said, "Tiger has been part of Nike for more than a decade. He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of our era. We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."
For Woods, it was yet another sign that Nike is going to stay by his side. The company had previously released three statements in support of Woods.
However, Tiger's image has been removed from the homepage of Accenture, a financial services company and another of Woods's main sponsors. Visitors to the site had previously been greeted with an image of Tiger standing in a desert behind a cactus. The caption read: "Opportunities are not always obvious." In its place are alternating images of speedskaters and a skier jumping from a cliff.
On Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that watchmaker Tag Heuer was removing signs featuring Woods from stores in Australia. But according to the article, Tag Heuer's Australia general manager said the move was unrelated to recent events. "We change out campaigns probably four or five times per annum," he said.
In New York, behind the cash register at Tourneau in the Time Warner Center, a large sign of Woods pensively staring over an expensive chronograph was still hanging on the wall.
CNBC's Darren Rovell reported that EA Sports, maker of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 video game, released a statement Friday saying, "At this time, the strategy for our Tiger Woods PGA TOUR business remains unchanged."
I was asked Friday night during a radio interview which of Woods's sponsors would be most likely to walk away. I don't think any will, but AT&T would seem the most likely candidate. The company, which doesn't use Woods in advertising (no signs and billboards to remove) or feature him on its Web site, is evaluating its relationship with Woods, according to the Associated Press. In exchange for having the company's logo on his bag, it's reported that AT&T makes a substantial donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Even if AT&T and Woods were to part ways, the telecommunications company would still have significant ties to golf. The company is the title sponsor the PGA Tour's annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, as well as the AT&T National, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Mark Steinberg, Tiger's agent, said in a statement: "Although there has been considerable inquiry about Tiger’s
sponsorships, it would be both premature and inappropriate to comment
on the status of specific business relationships. Suffice it to say, we
have had thoughtful conversations and his sponsors have been open to a
solution-oriented dialogue. Of course, each sponsor has unique
considerations and ultimately the decisions they make we would fully
understand and accept."