Thursday, December 10, 2009

Living Your Brand: Lessons Learned from Tiger Woods

Unless you've been living under the ocean for the last month, you no doubt have heard of the foibles and tribulations of Tiger Woods.  There are lessons to be learned from this frenzy of mass information.  We live in a world where no secret goes untold.  The more exposure one has in mainstream media, the harder they are destined to fall.
This is not some new phenomenon.  I remember being in 5th grade (well before Tiger was born- in fact probably even before his parents met) and writing an essay.  The assigned subject for the essay was to discuss whether it is right to look up to sports figures or actors as heroes.  It's been too long ago for me to recall who it was, but at that time some "hero" actor had been caught doing something.  All I can say for sure is that it wasn't a DUI, a drug arrest, a beating/stabbing/killing of a loved one or embezzling millions.  At the time, I argued that an actor's job is to perform, and it is the general public that holds him up as a hero when we do not know the real person behind the character. 
How times change.
Tiger was nearly everyone's hero.  The squeaky-clean wonder kid's videos from the age of 4 were plastered all over the airwaves as he came into his game.  The dedicated Dad-coach who taught him to love and excel at the game of golf was at his side to see him win time after time.  Remember the "I'm Tiger Woods" Nike campaign?  Children of every color learning golf, loving it, and there being no barriers for them because of this amazing golfer who broke through the barriers.  He won, he gave back, he spread the word about love and fellowship in golf, respect, honesty and perseverance.  He met a beautiful girl from Sweden who was working as a nanny and swept her off her feet, married her and had 2 beautiful babies.  And they all lived happily ever after.
Or not.
The problem comes in his branding.  We all bought into the ideal Tiger with the happily ever after because that is what his dad/coach/manager/PR agent sold us.  And he did a damn good job.
The problem with any brand is that you can't sell a bill of goods that isn't there.  Eventually, your consumers will turn your back on you if you cannot provide what you are selling.
Ask Tiger.  Since November 29, not one single endorsement ad of Tiger Woods' has been played on any network or cable channel.  Not one.  Gatorade pulled it's Tigerade line.  Tiger's popularity ranking among star athletes has dropped to 24th.  And the Congressional Medal of Honor he was to receive for excellence, integrity and dignity?  Nope.
At this point, no one wants to be Tiger Woods.