Tiger Woods' Victory - My Three Key Observations
Atlanta, Georgia – The East Lake golf course is actually about 20 minutes from my house here in Atlanta, so it was easy to feel the buzz created by Tiger Woods by late afternoon on Saturday. That the biggest name in Sports had not won on tour in five years was a big enough deal, but to hold a 4-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour championship event might have stretched reason, even for a legend like Tiger. But there we were, on a Sunday afternoon with Tiger holding a three shot lead on the back nine of a not insignificant tournament. Then the drama of 18 provided the most surreal backdrop in professional sports. Following his tee shot on 18, the ropes in the gallery that separated players from fans, somehow disappeared, as thousands of seemingly well mannered golf spectators, overwhelmed security and started streaming behind Tiger as if he were a prophet, half Moses half savior of a sport in search of the next Tiger Woods. I was watching the tournament with a group of friends and as a collective, we sat in stunned silence at the imagery and the moment unrivaled in recent past. As Tiger tapped in to save par on 18 and win by two strokes, golf had saved its biggest moment of the decade for the last tournament of the year. My three observations from Tiger's tales are related to Nike, Stanford University and Justin Rose.
1. Nike – The company stood by Tiger all along, absolutely broke Instagram and Twitter when they released congratulatory campaigns across social media less than 10 minutes after the trophy presentation. This suggests Nike had already finalized those messages prior to Sunday when it looked like Tiger might pull it off. Though Tiger has ceded the face of Nike to Collin Kaepernick, they appear ready to activate around Tiger in ways that resonate with a sports world that loves a good comeback. The problem that Nike has, is that they have gotten out of the golf clubs business, so they are likely to use Tiger to push apparel and motivational messaging.
2. Stanford University – Tiger Woods attended University for two years before dropping out when Nike paid him $40 Million to do so with his first contract in 1996. Stanford brilliantly branded Tiger's score card for this tournament. So, if you noticed, each time the TV cameras were on Tiger, he would pull out the score card with the Stanford University logo very prominently displayed on the front cover. This was excellent brand marketing on the part of Stanford, as they paid NOTHING for the incredible media exposure to tens of millions of people watching the biggest golf event of the year.
Justin Rose - The golfer from England (and fellow Northwestern Alum) actually won the FEDEX Cup Trophy, and earned $10 Million for doing so. However, Sunday barely registered him at all. The FEDEX Cup is awarded to the golfer that has the most points from golf tournaments played during the year and is awarded at the conclusion of the tour year. Yet despite winning the $10 Million in prize money, winning the FEDEX Cup Trophy, and being elevated to the world number 1 ranking, no one seemed to be talking about Justin Rose. His post tournament social media presence was comparatively flat compared to Tiger, who was scorching the Internet across all media platforms. Woods, for the record, will receive $3 million for finishing second in the FEDEX Cup standings, plus, he will get $1.6 Million for winning at East Lake tournament on Sunday. It seems odd to say, but I'm not sure the $4.6 million was the key thing on Tiger's mind this weekend.
From a pure marketing play, brands that align with an aging super star with unrivaled global recognition will certainly make the call to Tiger's marketing team. America loves a good comeback story and at the moment, Woods has incredible cross cultural appeal with the 18-34 demographic that advertisers covet.
With Sunday's victory, Tiger Woods moved up in the official golf rankings from #21 in the world, to #13, but it appears those rankings may be purely academic. It's totally obvious who the top golfer in the world is, and judging by universal acclaim on Sunday, it’s not even close. For the moment, Tiger Woods is back.