This Just In...

Questioning Tiger's approach

December 1, 2009

CJ Gunther/epa/Corbis
CJ Gunther/epa/Corbis

[Brief updated on Dec. 3.]

By now it’s been widely reported that champion golfer Tiger Woods was involved in an unexplained, single-car accident around 2:30 a.m. Friday near the driveway of his home in Windermere, Fla., and that news of the accident took 13 hours to become public.

The 33-year-old Woods is famous for guarding his privacy, but whether the accident turns out to be just a minor embarrassment or it develops into an image-denting scandal possibly involving marital discord, not even Woods can hide from the news cycle of the Internet and the 24-hour cable networks, says sports writer Gary Van Sickle in an article published at

As Van Sickle notes, for Woods the timing could hardly be worse. He was scheduled to host his own post-season tournament in Southern California, the Chevron World Challenge, which raises money for his charitable foundation, this coming weekend.

However, Woods has already announced that he will not attend the tournament.  While he might be able to skip his own event and avoid the inevitable media frenzy, Woods can’t dodge questions about his accident indefinitely, and stonewalling is a bad option, Van Sickle writes.

What Woods should do, Van Sickle says, is take control of the story, explain what happened, and get it over with. Until then his fans will be left to ponder the unanswered questions themselves, and to get their information from media that specialize in entertainment, not in news gathering.

On Sunday, Woods issued a statement on his Web site that offered few details on the accident. “This situation is my fault, and it’s obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I’m human and I’m not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again,” Woods said in the post. “This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way. Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible.”

On Wednesday, Woods issued another statement on his Web site. With an apology, Woods disclosed his  “personal failings”  and acknowledged he had not been “true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.” He did not mention the allegations of any affair, saying he would deal with his behavior and “personal failings alone with his family.”

Meanwhile, there’s already speculation on how the incident may impact Woods’ endorsement deals that total $100 million annually.

“I think this incident ultimately will have a negative effect on the Tiger Woods brand,” sports marketing expert Robert Tuchman, executive vice president of New York-based sports and entertainment marketing company Premiere Global Sports, told AdAge. “Regardless of the facts, there are brand marketers who might pass at looking at him now. I think as this situation unfolds and how he handles himself will determine the long-term effects to his image. The best thing he can do is be completely honest and open about the situation and what took place.”  — Greg Beaubien 

For further reading: Off-Course, Request for "Quit Please!" Hurts Tiger Woods (PRSAY blog)



Alan Stamm says:

While Tiger clearly should give a truthful explanation in person, he's evidently being careful to shield wife Elin Nordegren from legal jeopardy under Florida's 1991 domestic violence law. If the golfer acknowledges or indicates being hurt during a marital dispute, instead of or in addition to the Escalade crackup, she could be charged even if he prefers otherwise. "He is going out of his way to protect her from any concern that she's committed a crime," Professor Kimberly Tatum, a domestic violence expert at the University of West Florida, told the e-zine Slate. Hannah Rosin, author of the Slate piece posted Monday [], suggests a PR solution: "He could elaborate just enough to make it seem as if his wife were defending herself, in which case she would be off the hook. . . . Under Florida law, Woods could also use the most common out for people who regret having involved the police: Admit that, yes, she did hit him, but say it was an accident."

Dec. 1, 2009

Dan Keeney, APR says:

All the sideline experts presume to know a lot more than any of them actually do. I am no conspiracy theorist, but it seems reasonable to question if Mr. Woods was even involved in a legitimate car crash. The idea that his wife would hear it a quarter mile away does not seem reasonable. The idea that he would be as badly injured as he was from such a low speed crash seems strange. The idea that his wife would be wielding a golf club seems odd. And the fact that both back windows were broken out seems strange. So I think to put this all on Tiger's shoulders and say he should report his own news seems presumptuous. Maybe he doesn't want to talk in order to protect his wife. Lots of sports stars have done things that actually merit the public's scrutiny, but I don't think that whatever this is really rises to this level of scrutiny or PR community critique.

Dec. 1, 2009

Leo Sarmiento says:

I doubt this issue will seriously affect his marketability at this point. Few marketers will shy away from him due to speculation of what happened. As it stands, it was a single car accident, with no one else injured. All else is gossip. If you're Gatorade, what would hurt your brand more, the speculation of what may have happened to Tiger Woods? or losing Tiger Woods as a marketing tool? Companies may cool off for a bit, but by no means will they be dropping him! Now, if more comes out, then you have to review the situation once more. As for whether or not he should just come out and say exactly what happened, without knowing the full details, giving a suggestion would just be irresponsible and just plain bad PR.

Dec. 1, 2009

David Meeker says:

I'm appalled at the "analysis" of the public relations activity in the Tiger Woods matter. To suggest that there is a similarity between Tiger's situation and that of people like Kobe Bryant is ludicrous. How does running into a fire hydrant merit a crisis communication program? This matter will be gone with the next strange news story and will have little impact on Tiger's ability to break the next record.

Dec. 2, 2009

Frank Scafidi says:

It's been interesting listening to the PR pros opine about how Tiger has mishandled his predicament. Tiger has a personal mess on his hands and how he deals with it shouldremain personal. The media nor any others have any right to demand that he appear before them and answer their questions. Had Tiger broken the law or acted in any public way that disgraced his sponsors or the sport of golf, then he would need to answer those questions in some public fashion. Not so with this and he is right to stand firm. The absolute worst thing that he could do now would be to appear on "Oprah" or some other venue in order to appease his critics. He is a human being with very human problems that need to be sorted through and that is best done in private. Presenting himself before the masses to appease the media does nothing but make him a pinata. If any of his sponsors choose to abandon him as a result of this episode, then that reflects more on their bias than Tiger's diminished role as a golf icon.

Dec. 7, 2009

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