On the heels of becoming the youngest golfer ever to win the Masters Tournament (and beating the course record, as well), 21-year-old Tiger Woods edged out basketball superstar Michael Jordan as the most appealing athlete endorser in sports, according to a survey of sports advertisers and agency executives released last week.
Mr. Woods' latest victory after earning the traditional jacket given Masters champions wasn't a landslide: He beat Mr. Jordan by one vote, according to Bob Williams, president of Burns Sport Celebrity Service.
GRANT HILL PLACES THIRD
Burns, which handles endorsement deals between advertisers and athletes, polled 300 agency creative directors and corporate marketing executives. This time last year, Mr. Woods wasn't even on the chart, Mr. Williams said.
NBA stars Grant Hill, known for being a nice guy, and Dennis Rodman, known for being a bad boy, finished third and fourth on the survey. Baseball star Ken Griffey Jr. rounded out the top five.
Sports marketing executives don't find Mr. Rodman's inclusion among "the most appealing" to be at all surprising.
"In a cluttered and even chaotic marketplace, Dennis Rodman is the ultimate clutter breaker. Love him or hate him, your eye is drawn to him," said Seth Matlins, senior VP at ProServ, a sports marketing company.
Mr. Woods has deals with Nike and Titleist that will generate $60 million through the next five years. A deal for a branded line of luxury watches, reportedly marketed by Rolex Watch USA, will be announced in June.
Mr. Woods' estimated 1997 endorsement income of $12 million-plus would place him fifth on Forbes' list of the highest paid athlete endorsers.
POTENTIAL FOR $1 BIL
Mr. Williams said he believes Mr. Woods has a shot at becoming the first athlete to reach $1 billion in endorsement income, assuming a 30-year golfing career and deals with companies like Nike that would give him a cut of revenues from signature lines of products.
Mr. Woods might not be able to accrue a billion-dollar cache if he can't consistently play up to his Masters form. In fact, some believe the expectations being heaped upon Mr. Woods-role model, golf's demographic revolutionary, poster boy for 21st century multiculturalism-could impair his marketability.
"Mr. Woods today is conclusively the most pre-eminent personality in sports marketing, but if he turns out to have just an average career, the bloom will be off the rose," Mr. Matlins said. "It's akin to the Olympic phenomenon of predicting endorsement success based on one gold medal earned at one single event. . . . He has that empty promise that is potential."