Monday, November 9, 2010 marked the release of yet another title in the often controversial “Call of Duty” video game franchise and, with that, the release of controversial advertising. Of particular note is the below commercial featuring Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel in a no-holds-barred shootout meant to illustrate the experience of on-line gameplay.

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The impact of the Tiger Woods scandal in branding can be viewed from two different perspectives. The first perspective comes from the point of view of the companies that paid Woods to endorse their products. The second perspective is how the personal brand of Tiger Woods will be impacted as the smoke clears from this series of events.

Two professors in University of California-Davis’ Economics Department attempted to measure the impact from the first perspective. They claimed that shareholders in publicly traded companies that Woods endorsed lost $5-12 billion in the weeks that followed the car accident in Florida that set off the scandal. They undoubtedly have an interesting perspective, but there are limiting factors in their research. However, an undisputable fact of the Tiger Woods scandal is that it put a lot of brand management teams in a very delicate situation. Brand managers at firms where Woods served as an endorser had to consider how their brands would be perceived by their target consumers if they were to continue the relationship. It is not an enviable position. 

When a brand chooses to link arms with a celebrity endorser, it must consider which celebrities will be effective endorsers. It is essential to select celebrities that will positively contribute to revenue growth and profitability. I believe that a celebrity endorser is most effective when the target consumer perceives them as attractive or desirable in some fashion and the product is related to the expertise of the celebrity. For example, Michael Jordan was an effective endorser of both Nike and Gatorade because of his status as an elite athlete and the fact that both brands are related to athletic performance. Gisele Bundchen is an effective endorser for Dolce & Gabbana fragrances because scent is an important aspect of appearance and she is the embodiment of phenomenal appearance. She would be far less effective as a celebrity endorser for the Toyota Camry. With regards to Tiger Woods, he is most effective in endorsing Nike Golf products and any other golf related brands. His effect is diminished for brands like Gillette and AT&T.


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 Tiger Woods drives by Allison.jpg

Tiger Woods’ scandal proves once again that celebrity gossip mongering is a blood sport. The bigger the celebrity, the more the blood will flow. In Tiger’s case, he can open up a blood bank. Though it’s unlikely to reach the insanity that was unleashed when Michael Jackson died last summer, it will take the feeding frenzy to a new, all-time low, not because of his marital infidelity, but because of his immense stature as an iconic personality and global brand.

Our addiction to sycophantic enabling of celebrity bad behavior is beyond the pale. We reward and celebrate mediocrity. We give a moral equivalency and equal airtime to those knowingly doing the wrong thing. The discussion isn’t about right versus wrong anymore, but instead the takeaway is “don’t get caught!” Woods’ actions aren’t praise-worthy, but the punishment meted out in the court of public opinion of his private, personal situation is off the charts. Tiger’s poor job at managing the damage control process seems to be as big an affront to the public as what got him into this position.

His off-links activities are irrelevant to the golf world in the scheme of what he has done for the sport in the past 15 years. Let’s remember he plays golf and doesn’t hold elected public office. He didn’t impugn the integrity of his sport by betting or use performance enhancing drugs. Does Tiger Woods deserve to be vilified like O.J. Simpson, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Marv Albert, Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez, and many others?


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