It is always delightful when theory and reality align.
I spend a lot of time in my courses at Kellogg discussing marketing theories. I also spend time explaining why the theories don’t always work. Every situation is unique, and sometimes companies violate basic marketing rules and succeed nonetheless.
In the Tiger Woods case, the theory suggests that Tiger’s sponsors should not walk away. Tiger was and is one of the world’s great brands. Companies that have invested in a sponsorship deal should stick with it unless there is compelling reason to change. And while Tiger is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these days, his actions don’t appear to be unusual or unforgivable (for the public at least…I can’t comment on the state of his family life).
At the same time, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to heavily publicize a Tiger Woods sponsorship at this moment, either.
So in theory companies that have deals with Tiger should continue to work with him, but temporarily pull back on marketing activities. Once this has all settled down and Tiger’s agent has cut generous deals with all the offended parties to minimize the negative revelations, and once Tiger starts winning again, then the marketing campaigns can resume.
And that is precisely what seems to be happening. The Wall Street Journal is running a story today about how sponsors are responding to the crisis. The basic message: sponsors are defending Tiger and standing with him, but pulling back on promotional campaigns featuring him. You can read the story here:
So, this time at least, reality and theory align.
That is one of the few good things about the disheartening Tiger Woods story.