Tiger Woods has just announced that his return to the PGA tour will be for the Masters in early April. We all know that Tiger’s brand has taken a major hit over the past four months. Companies like Accenture and Gillette have dropped Tiger from their advertising campaigns. I’m sure he understands that his private mistakes take a toll on his brand image.
Woods has just hired Ari Fleischer, former Bush administration press secretary, to manage his PR campaign. I have little faith in Fleischer since his last major client was Mark McGwire during McGwire’s return to Major League Baseball. Fleischer’s strategy has proved to be disastrous. McGwire stated that he used steroids to rebound from injuries more quickly, not to hit more home runs. The public has not bought that explanation and it has not gotten the media to move on.
Before the scandals, Tiger Woods was able to get away with a lot. On the PGA tour, he was never known as a “fan friendly” golfer. He steered clear of signing autographs and kept his distance from the media. The public was okay with that behavior then, since they thought Tiger was special and needed to keep his focus as he attempted to break Nicklaus’ majors record. The fans were forgiving of Tiger’s elusiveness as he kept winning.
Looks like Tiger wanted to keep people away not because he was focused on winning, but because he had to manage “extracurricular” activities and he did not want anyone to know about it. Now the elusiveness that used to be an asset to Tiger’s brand is now going to be a liability. If Tiger and Fleischer manage his comeback correctly, he needs to be available, open, and human. He needs to change his brand image and become something he was not before.
The more available, open, and human Tiger is, the more sympathetic he will be to the public. The more sympathetic someone is, the more likeable. For instance, John Daly the pro golfer who has been upfront about his many addictions from gambling to drinking, is one of the most popular golfers on the tour and still has many endorsement deals.
Tiger can rehab his brand image by becoming something he was not before. This is his challenge and if he manages his brand effectively, he can emerge almost as strong as he was before.