Tiger Woods' remaining sponsors are under pressure after DUI

Daniel Roberts
Writer

Golf titan Tiger Woods was arrested in Florida on Memorial Day and charged with driving under the influence.

In a statement released on Monday night, Woods said, “I understand the severity of what I did,” but added, “I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.” The Jupiter Police Department report confirmed that he blew a .000 on a breath test, though he was asleep at the wheel and could not walk a straight line.

Woods, then, was under the influence of pills, not alcohol. But the business question now is: will that difference matter to his remaining sponsors?

Those sponsors are: Nike, which has had a relationship with Woods for more than 20 years and stood by the golfer through his 2009 infidelity scandal; Rolex, which became his first new post-scandal endorsement when it signed him in 2011; Bridgestone, which signed Woods to endorse its golf balls just five months ago; TaylorMade, which signed Woods to a major deal to endorse its clubs just four months ago; Hero MotorCorp., the Indian motorcycle company that sponsors the Hero World Challenge golf tournament and signed Woods to a four-year contract in 2014; Monster Energy, the energy drink that signed on to sponsor Woods’ golf bag last year; Upper Deck, the trading card company; and Kowa, a heat rub that Woods has pitched on Japanese television since 2011.

Tiger Woods at a book signing event in March 2017. (AP)

Nike has a history of standing by its athletes despite scandal. It re-signed NFL quarterback Michael Vick four years after his arrest for running a dog-fighting ring, after he had rehabilitated his image; it temporarily suspended tennis star Maria Sharapova after she admitted to taking a banned substance, then reinstated her three months later.

Nike launched its entire Nike Golf business on the back of Tiger Woods, but halted its golf equipment business last year and now just makes apparel; that move enabled Woods to join Bridgestone for balls and TaylorMade for clubs. Last month, timed to The Masters, Nike rolled out a new series of golf ads that feature Woods prominently.

Woods is making less than half of what he made in endorsement money before his 2009 infidelity scandal. After that happened, he quickly lost deals with Accenture, AT&T, Buick, Gatorade, Gillette, Tag Heuer and others.

Forbes has most recently estimated that Woods still earns $45 million per year in endorsements, but that is likely a highly inflated figure considering his list of sponsors. His largest pact is with Nike—sources have told Yahoo Finance that Nike pays Woods nearly $10 million per year—but the others are mostly small. Woods also has income from designing golf courses in Asia.

Nike says there will be “no change to the relationship” with Woods. Rolex had no comment. TaylorMade had no comment. Bridgestone Golf said it is “aware of the incident with Tiger Woods and will continue to monitor this situation and gather information from the appropriate sources.”

Yahoo Finance has reached out to all the rest of Woods’ sponsors and will update this story as it develops.

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite. Sportsbook is our recurring sports business video series.

Read more:

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Why Adidas is finally selling off its golf club business

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