Nike, Titleist ready new products as golfer looks to limit other deals

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Golf phenom Tiger Woods is stepping up his marketing activities after winning the Masters tournament last week in spectacular fashion.

But agents for the 21-year-old superstar--who turned pro just eight months ago--are limiting the companies he'll partner with to a select few to avoid overexposure of what could become the most valuable brand name in sports.

"Tiger is looking at playing golf for the next 30 years, so we're not going to be cashing in quickly," said Mr. Woods' manager, Hughes Norton of International Management Group.

Nike will introduce a line of golf shoes and apparel bearing the Tiger Woods name, complete with his signature logo, next spring. Titleist has signature golf clubs in the works, too.

Both brands have five-year deals with Mr. Woods, valued at $60 million combined. Nike and Titleist are consulted on all deals, though they don't have veto power.


A line of branded luxury watches from an unspecified marketer will be announced soon. And while a long-rumored deal with Pepsi-Cola Co. hasn't materialized, Mr. Norton is now also talking with other beverage marketers.

McDonald's Corp. showed little interest in signing Mr. Woods in two earlier meetings with Mr. Norton, but the fast-food chain was among those calling after last week's victory, according to the golfer's manager.

Mr. Norton said he's looking to link Mr. Woods with a maximum of five global brands, and will avoid the temptation to build a portfolio to rival those of endorsement stars like Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Mr. Jordan, the top sports endorser, has an estimated annual endorsement income of $45 million.

"We're learning lessons from those who have overdone it," Mr. Norton said.

Sports marketing experts said the right combination of brands is key in building Mr. Woods' image.

"The challenge for Tiger is going to be in choosing which companies are right for him at the right times in his life and getting them all to work together to manage Brand Tiger in a consistent way," said Mark Dowley, managing director at McCann-Erickson Worldwide's Momentum IMC, New York.

But some branding experts wonder if Mr. Woods' head-to-toe association with Nike will overshadow other brands.

"It will be interesting to see if Nike helps or holds up his development as a brand," said Dave Studeman, executive director at consultancy Landor Associates.


Mr. Dowley has other concerns relative to Mr. Woods' staying power. "Not many have come into sports with as much pressure both imposed and self-imposed," he said. "He has the potential of being everything he says he can be, if he can hold up under the pressure."

Mr. Woods has been trumpeted as a golfing messiah who will lead younger, more ethnically and economically diverse players to his aging, country-club sport. Nike ads from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., have promoted this image, and the golfer's Tiger Woods Foundation supports it.

Perhaps in an effort to lighten his image, Nike's next round of Tiger ads, scheduled for early June, may have a more comic, self-deprecating tone.

Alvin Schechter, chairman of consultancy Interbrand Schechter, said Mr. Woods' roots--he's part Thai, part Chinese, part African-American--make him an ideal pitchman. "He symbolizes success in the American experiment in multiculturalism."

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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