Television audiences may shrink by half, based on Nielsen Co. data from past events. TV advertising may drop by as much as 40 per cent, said Aaron Cohen, chief media negotiating officer at New York-based ad agency Horizon Media Inc. Nike, which built its golf equipment business around Woods, stands to lose more than $US30 million in sales, according to Claire Gallacher, an analyst with San Diego-based Capstone Investments Inc.
“It’s not so much a ripple effect as it is a tsunami,” said Rick Gentile, a former CBS Sports executive producer who teaches at Seton Hall University. “The aura is gone.”
The PGA Tour received revenue of $US773 million from tournaments and television in 2008, according to its annual report. In turn, broadcasters received $US642.7 million in TV advertising revenue, according to New York-based TNS Media Intelligence. Should Woods sit out the entire year, ad spending will skid 30 per cent to 40 per cent, Cohen said in an interview.
Through October of this year, marketers spent $US576.4 million to advertise on weekend golf broadcasts, according to TNS. New York-based CBS Corp. and General Electric Co.’s NBC had the largest exposure, the researcher said.
The 2010 PGA Tour season begins on Jan. 7 in Hawaii. Cohen’s estimate suggests ad losses may be at least $US192 million if Woods is out all year. That, plus the potential damage to Nike, would put the effect at more than $US220 million.
Weekend television audiences sank by 47 per cent to an average of 2.4 million viewers when Woods was out with a knee injury in 2008 and early 2009, according to data from Nielsen, the New York-based researcher. Excluding major tournaments, ad prices were 30 per cent higher when he was present than when he wasn’t, according to TNS.
“There will be an audience for the sport after Tiger Woods,” Cohen said. “They’ll just be much smaller because he attracts a casual fan who otherwise may not tune in.”
The ad crunch will initially hurt broadcasters, then potentially affect the tour later when networks seek to renew television rights at lower prices, said Cohen.
Woods, ranked No. 1 for the past 4 1/2 years in the Official World Golf Ranking, has dominated golf since turning pro in 1996, earning a record $US100.2 million in career prize money. His 14 major tournament wins are second to Jack Nicklaus, who had 18 as a professional.
The golfer built an endorsement franchise that helped propel his total earnings past $US1 billion, according to Forbes, teaming with Beaverton, Oregon-based sporting goods manufacturer Nike, Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette razors, Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer, consulting company Accenture Plc and others.
Woods attracted sponsorships that helped lift prize money and feed the growth of professional golf. The industry pumped about $US76 billion into the US economy in 2005, a 22 per cent increase from 2000, according to the most recent study commissioned by the US PGA Tour, the PGA of America and US Golf Association.
Operating golf facilities made up the biggest portion of the total, $US28.1 billion. Endorsements, tournaments and associations accounted for $US1.68 billion of activity. Golf supplies totaled $US6.15 billion.
At tour events, ticket sales are typically 20 per cent higher when Woods, 33, plays than when he doesn’t, according to tournament organizers. The PGA Tour, with 2008 total revenue of $US981 million, runs merchandise booths that usually sell out of the Nike garb he wears for a given day. Before Tiger, sales totaled about $US300 million, according to the tour.
`Face of Nike Golf’
Woods has apologized and asked sponsors and fans for understanding in a Dec. 11 statement. “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people,” he said. Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tiger’s absence may cost Nike 5 per cent of its golf revenue, Gallacher said in an interview. That would represent about $US32.4 million, based on Nike golf revenue of $US648 million for the year ended in May. The company’s annual sales were $US19.2 billion.
“He is the face of Nike golf,” Thomas Shaw, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, said in an interview. “The longer he’s gone, it’s going to make it more difficult for them to initially appeal to people for their 2010 product line.”
Nike sells Woods-branded hats, shirts, pants, sweaters, belts and shoes. The gear typically sells for about 25 per cent more than similar Nike golf merchandise, Shaw said. The company developed its Victory Red golf clubs, referencing the red shirt Tiger wears on Sundays.
Beth Gast, a spokeswoman for Nike’s golf division, declined to comment beyond a statement of support for Woods the company issued on Dec. 11.
Nike fell 30 cents to $US64.05 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and has climbed 26 per cent this year. CBS added 22 cents to $US14.27 and is up 74 per cent year-to-date. GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, lost 6 cents to $US15.69. P&G, based in Cincinnati, added 4 cents to $US62.16.
Woods’s presence has helped prize money quadruple to almost $US280 million in 2009 from $US70 million in 1997, his first full professional season. He used his celebrity to stage charity tournaments such as this month’s Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. In 2007, the tour raised $US124 million for charity, up from $US40 million in 1996.
The effect of Woods’s hiatus will cut deeper the longer he’s out. Television contracts with New York-based CBS and NBC are due to expire in 2012, and renewal talks were likely to begin next year, said Gentile, who teaches sports management at Seton Hall in South Orange, New Jersey.
With Woods’s return uncertain, the networks will probably balk at paying rates similar to the ones they pay now, Gentile said.
“It’s like a poker game,” Gentile said. “If I’m the PGA Tour, I’m not so happy about the cards I’m holding right now.”
CBS, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, declined to comment, said Shannon Jacobs, a company spokeswoman.
The network, which carries the Masters and the PGA Championship, pays about $US200 million annually to broadcast PGA tournaments, according to Michael Morris, an analyst at UBS AG in New York.
NBC, set to be taken over by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., hosts the US Open and non-majors including Woods’s Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship. Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC Sports, declined to comment.
Broadcasters may have to offer advertisers free ad time if tournament ratings fall below guaranteed levels, Cohen said.
“CBS will take a financial hit,” Cohen said. “If Tiger is not there they won’t get the same price or get credit for the same audience levels.”
Prizes could also be affected, as eight US tournament sponsor contracts expire after the 2010 season.
Of those eight, Woods typically plays in four: the WGC-CA Championship; the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley; the Deutsche Bank Championship, which benefits Woods’s charity foundation; and the Tour Championship presented by Coca- Cola Co.
The average purse for tournaments that make up Woods’s typical 18-event annual schedule, such as the Accenture Match Play Championship, is $US7.3 million, about $US2 million more than for tournaments he skips, such as the John Deere Classic.
The average sponsorship costs about $US6 million, according to tournament organizers. Like TV networks, marketers are likely to be influenced by uncertainty regarding Woods, Gentile said.
As damaging as the personal revelations have been, Woods has solidified his impact on the game and within sports marketing, said Julie D. Lanzillo, president of InfoSport Inc., a Worcester, Pennsylvania-based sports marketing group.
“When he was still a rising phenomenon, I think the impact would have been far worse for the game, the PGA, the industry and sponsors,” Lanzillo said.
While Dublin-based Accenture and Gillette have dropped Woods from advertising campaigns, others including Nike and trading card company Upper Deck Co. have stood by the golfer.
That approach may pay off when Woods ultimately returns to the game, said Casey Alexander, who covers the golf industry for New York-based Guilford Securities Inc.
“The only story better than a God on Earth is a story about a failed God on Earth and watching him become human again,” Alexander said.