Tiger Woods showed how superstars can overcome scandal and get back to the top
Not that long ago, the consensus on golf phenomenon Tiger Woods was that he was on his way out, headed downhill and likely done with his career. Following a very messy and public divorce due to his adultery, multiple surgeries, a loss of multiple endorsement deals, as well as, Woods appeared to have hit rock bottom. Then, on Sunday, April 14, he won the 2019 Masters for his 15th major victory—and this did more for his career and image than he could’ve imagined.
Following a scandal, or in Tiger’s case, a slew of unfortunate events, public figures have to work hard to regain trust.
Generally, if fans are given a good reason to forgive their favorite celebrity or athlete, they will. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency, tells us how Tiger Woods is on the road to recovering his image, and how other stars can do the same.
There are many different approaches for celebrity public relations disaster aversion, and while each situation is different and unique, the basics remain the same. The general public likes someone who owns up to their actions and apologizes. Once that is done, there is usually an explanation that shifts the blame elsewhere.
Apologies are meant to be heartfelt and teamed with some kind of compensatory action. In the case of Tiger Woods, he’s been working on rebuilding his image for many years. The first accounts of his misdemeanors began in 2009, and the fallout has continued to haunt him. The public was aware that he began seeking counseling and help. Transparency goes a long way in earning forgiveness.
A cardinal rule of crisis management, apology and accountability are always the first and more crucial steps.
Use your star power
Tiger Woods, despite his failures, still offers name recognition and star power. Just ask Tom Brady—even in his off years, the New England QB remains in the spotlight. When Tiger Woods won at the Tour Championship in 2018, ratings went through the roof, beating the same tournament year-to-year by more than 200 percent. His final round was “the highest rated telecast” in FedEx Cup playoff history according to the Associated Press.
This speaks not only to Tiger Woods’ value as a player but as a symbol. He broke as many perceived racial barriers as he did expectations within the golf industry. He rocketed to the top of a sport where people his age were not expected to become stars. That success will always be a part of the Tiger mythos.
Use your brand
Star power and brand value are calculated based on more than wins. Even some of the best athletes have failed to capture the imagination of their fan base in the way Tiger did and continues to do. More than anything else, star power matters when it comes to branding. That’s why a long-retired Michael Jordan is still scoring endorsement deals, or why Shaq is still incredibly relevant. People aren’t looking for athletes, they’re looking for heroes.
In many ways, following his Masters' victory, Tiger Woods brought back his brand. Only minutes after he won his 15th major title, Nike released a sentimental video. Odds are, they had the ad ready to go and simply capitalized on the incredible story.
The 'comeback' factor
Americans loves a comeback. While Tiger Woods may not return to the apex of his career, his victory is already being considered one of the finest comeback stories in sports history.
A great comeback story helps change the public narrative as well. While the public has always viewed Tiger Woods as a phenomenal athlete, his slew of scandals and medical issues heavily tarnished his image. Now, sentiment has changed – everyone is viewing him as a champion once again. Tiger Woods’ comeback story is one of his biggest wins on and off the golf course.
Looking ahead, it will be difficult for Tiger Woods to come back as the mega-endorser he once was. While Nike is still his apparel partner, nearly every other brand left him following his personal and professional issues.
That said, even in the wake of a new cohort of young players, all have failed to win the crowd like Tiger Woods has. Players — and brands — need an “it” factor to make it from big to huge. Tiger Woods, in more ways than one, has “it.” He proved this to his loyal fan base for the 15th time last weekend, and that is a sentiment they surely won’t forget.