The Power of the Tiger

March 17th, 2010

To the likely relief of ESPN and CBS, which will both carry the Masters, Tiger Woods has announced that he will return to competitive golf for the tournament.

ESPN will be carrying the first and second round of the Masters April 8 and 9, while CBS has broadcast rights to the weekend rounds April 10 and 11, writes Mediaweek.

Woods’ sponsors are also likely relieved to hear of his imminent April return, though they will be watching his performance carefully. If he plays well, sponsors like Nike and Electronic Arts may be led to decide that his strong performance mitigates the bad press surrounding his marital infidelities. If he plays poorly, however, they may say Woods is not only “risky” from a marketing perspective, but that he’s no longer achieving the same level of success that drew them to him in the first place, says David Carter, executive director of the Sports Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business (via Reuters).

ESPN is banking on a large audience. “Tiger’s return to competitive golf at this year’s Masters Tournament will surely be one of the biggest stories the sporting world has seen,” John Wildhack, evp of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, says. “We will cover the Masters Tournament and Tiger’s return across a variety of ESPN platforms, both domestically and internationally.”

The highest-rated golf telecast in over three decades was the final round of the Masters in 1997 when Woods won for the first time. The telecast generated a 14.1% household rating. The second highest-rated golf event was in 2001, when Woods again won, generating a 13% rating.

Last year, the Masters without Woods declined by almost 50%, and the golfer’s absence from the PGA Tour this year caused an 11% decline, according to Nielsen numbers. While the audience for the Masters may increase significantly, the audience may not be of much interest to golf advertisers like Titleist and Callaway, as viewers may not be too interested in the actual sport of golf.

Eli Lilly & Co. was the top spender in PGA events last year, with $28.1 million invested between January and October. Other major sponsors include FedEx, with $24.1 million in spending, AT&T ($18.7 million), Pfizer ($17.1 million) and Toyota ($17.1 million). Sponsors for April’s Masters include Coca-Cola, IBM, Mercedes and AT&T.

Advertisers spent an average $104,500 for a :30-spot in 2009 PGA Tour events in which Woods appeared. During his hiatus, that number declined 30%, to $80,200 per :30-spot.

Mediaweek points out that those estimates exclude the four Majors, which typically have a cost of $200,000 per :30-spot.

Source: MediaPlannerBuyer.com 3/16/10