Tiger Built a Brand and Lost his Privacy

December 2, 2009 by Nuffer, Smith, Tucker

Next up in the Tiger Woods pandemonium is the privacy debate.  Did a man in the public eye get stripped of his privacy by being forced to reveal his “transgressions?”

Let others take chip shots at that.  Instead, Tiger Woods the brand lost any privacy when he carved an image that personified high family and moral values.  Since his junior golf days, he, his family and his handlers meticulously crafted a brand of integrity, dignity, determination, competitive fire and loyalty.  His charitable endeavors and commercial endorsements further exemplified the Tiger Woods brand.

Successful brands reflect character – who you are and what you stand for, and clarifying that character is paramount.  It’s the centerpiece of an authentic and transparent brand proposition.  The Tiger Woods brand consistently delivered on its expectations on and off the golf course.  The brand experience was highly attractive to be repeated by fans, endorsers, news media and even his competitive foes, all telling of great stories and experiences with anything Tiger Woods.  Like any great brand, it’s more about what people say after you’ve left the room than what you say about yourself, and the Tiger Woods brand was molded perfectly to suit that.

But then the mold began to crack around Thanksgiving. It happens.  No brand will last without error, especially one that is human.  The smart brands, or at least those with smart handlers, realize that and are equipped to address any fissure in the brand – quickly. That’s where the crack in the Tiger Woods brand began to widen.  Rather than address any issues head on – the late, great golf teacher Harvey Penick always extolled “take dead aim” – the Tiger Woods brand went into bunker mode.  Control of the brand was lost – others filled the void while the brand was mum – and it was exacerbated by a refusal to talk with cops on three different occasions and apparent denials about extra-marital affairs.

And then the skeletons started coming out of the closet.  Instead of a New York City nightclub promoter, and we may hear more on that down the road, we’re hearing about hook-ups with a reality TV star and a Las Vegas nightclub marketing manager.

A brand is also your every action and deed, including inaction in a crisis situation.  The Tiger Woods brand ceded control; it can be regained, but it will be the longest tee shot in the man’s career.


  • Bryan Spevak (6 years ago) Reply

    Rumor is Phil Mickelson has been calling Elin Woods for advice on how to beat Tiger.

  • Larry Nuffer (6 years ago) Reply

    So what would be your counsel, if you were Tiger's PR guy? In this world of intense (perhaps unfair)celebrity scrutiny, Tiger has precious few options. The best, in my opinion, is total transparency. News shows this morning are already talking about million-dollar payoffs to his wife and the women he consorted with outside his wedding vows. The guy's got hundreds of millions and his bank account is going to take a huge hit no matter what. Why not come totally clean - and I mean identifiying all his indiscretions - and the rebuild from there. He will lose some endorsements, but may gain others via his apologetic, transparent behaviors. And he must transform himself and the new Tiger brand into what he truly is at the core of his being.

  • Let us accept that no-one is infallable. Everyone has their 'shadow' - even our heroes. It is a shame that Tiger built his brand on his values because that is really where he comes unstuck in all this fiasco. I am disappointed because Tiger's values were one's I often referenced to.
    A new, authentic Tiger will emerge - perhaps one that more people can relate to. Just as Agassi revealed his indiscretions, how Tiger deals with this will enable the public will decide whether this makes him more or less a champion.

  • Mike Rose (6 years ago) Reply


    Totally agree that he should be transparent, and he should have done so within the first 24 hours of this crisis. He and his advisers had to of known this was boiling over, and he would have done himself a lot of good coming clean early. Today, he's still silent, and supposedly more skeletons are coming out of the closet. It's gone from boiling over to volcanic. The longer he waits, the harder it will be for him to transform his brand.

  • Mike Rose (6 years ago) Reply


    Great points, particularly on the Agassi example. It can be done, even though it's painful work ahead, but Tiger's silence is making it quite the mountain to climb.

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