In late 2009, Don and I got to play a few rounds of high-profile PR analysis thanks to the bumbling “PR strategy” of Team Tiger Woods. At best, he was arrogant. At worst, he was insincere. But I answered every “How will he win back his fans?” question this way… “Win golf tournaments.”
Here we are, on the eve of the Masters, with Tiger Woods back among the competitors. He’s physically healthy, publicizing his relationship with an athlete who has a “Q” score (skier Lindsey Vonn) and, most importantly, he is winning golf tournaments again.
Because of his misdeeds and the way he handled (or, more accurately, mishandled) the PR surrounding their revelation, he is far from likely to regain his status as an international mega-brand that transcends sports, ages and genders. But can he once again be a force that draws viewers that advertisers crave, particularly affluent men, to golf on TV on Sunday afternoons? Absolutely.
In sports, winning is the most endearing quality. Just like in business, trump factors can emerge. For example, PR firms owned by businesspeople who don’t operate with high integrity but still get results for their clients manage to stay in business. Lawyers who are “sharks,” reviled by clients but winners in court, can be very successful even though they engender disdain. Business-to-consumer companies can overcome reputation challenges by offering convenience and low prices, like Wal-Mart for example.
Ideally, the most successful athletes would also be the best people. Just like the most successful companies would be the ones that do business the right way. But our culture sometimes picks and chooses what it thinks is important on a case-by-case basis. With Woods, this is one of those times.
Tiger Woods is getting a taste now of what it’s like to be famous in the most forgiving society on the planet. If he can keep his personal life in order and stay “in the hunt” on Sundays, he will regain much of what he has lost in the past 3 1/2 years.