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Tiger tees off in new Accenture campaign

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The first three days of Tiger Woods’ tenure as Accenture spokesman went splendidly. The Bermuda-based consulting firm launched its $75 million campaign featuring Woods on Oct. 3, including TV spots aired during ESPN’s and ABC’s broadcast of the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. Woods won that PGA Tour event two days later, which fit nicely with Accenture’s new tagline, "high performance delivered."

Accenture plans to run ads congratulating Woods for his win in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.

"We thought the gods were looking out for us," joked James Murphy, Accenture’s global director-marketing and communications. "It was great that he played well. It was another example of ‘high performance delivered.’"

In addition to TV spots, Accenture rolled out a worldwide print campaign. The ads ran in publications that included The Financial Times, The Globe & Mail, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Le Figaro, Australian Financial Review and Nikkei Business.

Accenture’s new tagline replaces the "innovation delivered" slogan that anchored the company’s "I am your idea" advertising campaign launched in 2002. That campaign’s focus on innovation had something of an anachronistic feel, Murphy said.

"We saw that, as the marketplace came out of the dot-com era, innovation was still very much on everyone’s mind, but it was a different kind of innovation they wanted, a combination of business and technology," he said. "They wanted someone who could deliver high performance for the total organization."

Also, the competitive landscape has changed since Accenture launched its previous campaign. IBM Corp. acquired PWC Consulting and merged the company with its own consulting arm, creating a formidable challenge to Accenture.

Acknowledging IBM

Saying that IBM was attempting to "match our model," Murphy acknowledged, "They’re closer to us than anybody else."

In 2002, IBM outspent Accenture on media $423.1 million to $46.5 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But Dana Stiffler, senior analyst at AMR Research, said that marketing has little influence among Accenture’s key target—C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to personal relationships; or it possibly comes down to financing muscle, in which case IBM has its own in-house financing function, and Accenture does not," Stiffler said.

Reaction to Accenture’s latest campaign has been mixed. Some observers believe Woods’ affiliation with Nike, Buick and other brands might lessen the ability of the public to associate the golfer with Accenture. Indeed, in Accenture’s ads, Woods is wearing a Nike swoosh on his cap.

"We talked about that a lot," said Murphy, who argued that targeting top management, as Accenture does, meant a different media buy that would limit confusion. He pointed out that Accenture wouldn’t, for example, buy TV spots during prime time. It would, however, purchase spots during sporting events, just as other companies using Woods do.

Accenture competitor BearingPoint, which used Phil Mickelson, another PGA Tour star, as an endorser, offered this critique of the campaign through spokesman John Schneidawind: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now we at BearingPoint have an even better reason to root for Phil when he’s out on tour."

Jim Gregory, CEO of branding consultancy CoreBrand, said of the Accenture campaign: "I think this is a very interesting approach. But I don’t think it is as on-target as the ‘I am your idea,’ although I don’t think that campaign was as successful as they wanted it to be."

But Al Ries, chairman of branding consultancy Ries & Ries, said Accenture erred in choosing Woods as a spokesperson.

"He is a nice visual, but what’s the visual for Accenture?" Ries asked. "There’s not much logical connection between Tiger Woods and Accenture’s business." He suggested former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch, for example, would have made a more appropriate spokesperson for Accenture.

Ries added, however, that Woods offers value beyond an image in an advertisement. "It does have merchandising possibilities," he said.

Marketing on the links

A focused b-to-b campaign need only work on a few key targets, and the ads themselves might be less important than the face-to-face marketing possibilities provided by having Woods as an endorser. Merchandising possibilities might include a round of golf with Woods for key Accenture clients or prospects.

"We haven’t, frankly, resolved all of that," Murphy said. "It could include a round of golf; it could include appearances at our own events."

"I’d love to play a round of golf with him or just putt once on a green with him," Gregory said.

It is that sort of admiration among business people that may make the money—a reported
$6 million—that Accenture is paying Woods well worth it.

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