Tiger Woods’ Masters victory made Nike a winner

Nike’s years of loyalty to Tiger Woods paid off on Sunday.

Woods, once a giant of both golf and sponsorships, has been losing in both those fields in recent years. But Nike, which has a history of remaining loyal to the athletes with its endorsement deals, stuck with Woods.

Sunday the 43-year old Woods overcame his many doubters by winning the Masters, his first major tournament win in 11 years. And within minutes Nike had an ad up on social media highlighting the win, and its “Just Do It” slogan. It was seen by tens of millions of people.

“It’s crazy to think a 43-year old who has experienced every high and every low and has just won his 15th major is chasing the same dream as a three-year old,” said the ad. It then played a clip of a three-year old Woods saying “I’m going to beat Jack Nicklaus.”

The reference is to Nicklaus’ record 18 majors, which once seemed well within Woods’ grasp, but has appeared out of reach in recent years as back problems and poor performance left him on the fringes of the game. A sex scandal and a DUI arrest in 2017 helped drive many other sponsors away. But Nike never wavered.

The Nike swoosh on Woods’ shirt was the most noticeable sponsor logo during the day. Nike got about $22 million worth of exposure from Woods’ win Sunday, according to analysis by Apex Marketing, a sponsorship analytics research firm. And that included only the original broadcast itself, not the encore airing of the match or the many news clips of him winning.

A year ago when Patrick Reed, another Nike athlete won the Masters, it produced only $12 million worth of exposure for Nike, said Eric Smallwood, Apex’s president. The firm measures how long various sponsor logos are easily seen on a broadcast, and compares it to viewership numbers and the cost of advertising.

Smallwood said even when Woods was struggling, he often got more attention than other golfers that far back in the pack, meaning that Nike was getting something for its money even without him winning. But he said that was typically a small fraction of the attention it got Sunday.

Woods is still one of the best known athletes in the country, three times better known by the general public than the average athlete, according to surveys by the Q Score company. And while positive opinions of him are way down from his heyday among the general public, sports fans still have a more positive view of him than the average athlete, according to the Q Score surveys.

Woods’ deal with Nike has been reported to be worth as much as $20 million a year at one time. His current deal is probably worth about half of that amount annually, according to Bob Dorfman, an endorsement expert and executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising. He said some of that money is likely based on Woods’ performance as well as how often Nike uses him in its ads.

Forbes’ estimates that his endorsements were worth about $42 million in 2018, a fraction of what he used to make.

Nike will probably start using him more now, Dorfman said.

“Yes, there’s always going to be people who are detractors for what he did. That’s more of an issue these days. But he’s still a marketable commodity,” Dorfman said. “I think they’ll be much more visible with him now leading up the other majors. Everything points upwards for Nike and Tiger.”

Once upon a time Nike made Woods the centerpiece of its entire golf equipment business, but it got out of most of that business in 2016, keeping only clothing and golf shoes. Woods has since moved to TaylorMade clubs and Bridgestone golf balls.

Those sponsors also got some attention in Sunday’s win, as did Monster energy drink, which is highlighted on his golf bag. But they got no where near the exposure that Nike did.