Sports Marketing Expert: Questions as Tiger Woods Begins Play at Master’s

Released: 7-Apr-2010 9:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Maryland, College Park
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Newswise — How golf fans will react to Tiger Woods re-entry today into competitive golf at the Masters may prove as interesting as the action on the links, says University of Maryland professor Stephen McDaniel, a consumer psychologist who studies sports marketing and fan behavior.

“From a marketing point of view, the big question is whether the interest in Tiger Woods’ return to the game will benefit the sport of golf and the PGA,” McDaniel says. “Of course, there’s the old adage ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity.’ But if it’s just morbid curiosity driven by an interest in salacious off-the-course matters – and not in golf itself – all the publicity probably won’t translate into a sustained increase in viewership of the tournament.

McDaniel adds that fan reaction on the sidelines and in living rooms will have long-term consequences for the sport of golf.

“Woods is the marquee athlete for the PGA, and the Master’s is one of its marquee events, McDaniel explains. “He’s helped raise viewership in the past, so those numbers this time will be an important measure of his return. Will fans want to see him rally or to watch his downfall or failure? That remains to be seen.”

Woods made some serious public relations errors when the story first went public last year, according to McDaniel. But he describes Woods’ return as “strategic.” While the Master’s is a very visible stage, it also offers Woods some security.

“It’s a very controlled environment in terms of fans and media. For all the spotlights, it’s a relatively ‘safe’ approach to begin golfing again,” McDaniel points out. “Woods held his first news conference since the crisis began on opening day of Major League Baseball and the day of the Men’s NCAA Final. This may have helped reduce the level of attention. While he did not respond to all questions (and there are still some lingering issues), he has been pretty contrite and forthright about his treatment and recovery. So, it will be interesting to see if this increases viewership of the Master's.”

As for the impact of all this on the lucrative endorsements and commercial sponsorships Woods has lost: “While his recent appearances might have helped his image with fans, I doubt if sponsors will come calling any time soon,” McDaniel concludes.