December 31, 2009
As the worst year of his life drew to a close, Tiger Woods got one last kick in the teeth on New Year's Eve when AT&T announced it would no longer be sponsoring Tiger Woods.
AT&T joins Accenture as companies cutting ties with Woods in the wake of his revelations of infidelity. AT&T offered no comment on the reasons for its decision, and also gave no indication as to the value of the contract, which was signed earlier in 2009 and billed at the time as a "multiyear" deal. However, Woods' name has become toxic to at least a portion of the American public, and companies which had traded on Tiger's pristine image are now obviously trying to distance themselves from him.
While Tiger had not been a major part of AT&T's advertising campaigns, he had displayed the AT&T logo on his golf bag, one of the most prized sections of real estate on any golf course.
Of more concern is the role that AT&T will play in sponsoring the AT&T National, the PGA event Woods has hosted every year since it began in 2007. AT&T indicated that it will continue to sponsor the event, and the Tiger Woods Foundation will continue to benefit from it under a contract that extends through 2014. Woods is currently on "indefinite leave" from golf, so he may or may not be back in time for this year's tournament, currently scheduled for July 1-4.
It's a further sign that the true story here isn't the parade of women claiming liaisons, but the financial impact on Woods' sponsors and the game of golf. As the Woods scandal slides off the tabloid pages and into the financial section, one story that's drawn plenty of attention in recent days is a report from two economics professors at the University of California, Davis that contends Woods has cost his sponsoring companies up to $12 billion in losses.
It's an interesting premise, the idea that Woods has actually cost thousands of investors billions of dollars. The professors reviewed stock market returns for the 13 trading days after Woods' infamous Thanksgiving evening accident. Comparing those returns to each sponsor's closest competitor as well as the previous four years of returns, the professors concluded that Woods had cost his sponsors -- including Accenture, AT&T, Electronic Arts, Proctor and Gamble, Nike and PepsiCo -- approximately 2.3 percent of their value, or about $12 billion.
However, Waggle Room took a much closer look at the figures, and decided that the UC professors' study was completely, utterly wrong -- that in fact Woods' sponsors have earned $1.5 billion since the accident. That link is must-reading for those interested in the financial side of this story, but in sum -- the "losses" were paper losses, not actual cash, and Woods' impact on the sponsors is minimal because so little of their overall value is tied to Woods.
"There is no direct correlation between Woods' actions and the movement of stocks," Waggle Room's Ryan Ballengee adds. "There are way too many factors that weigh into these kinds of stocks. For one, almost all of Woods' sponsors are large corporations that have a multitude of revenue streams greater than those even remotely influenced by the golfer. Also, factors like interest rates, consumer sentiment and spending, and other broader factors have much greater bearing on stocks like these." Conclusion: while Tiger may have wrecked his marriage, you can't blame him for wrecking portfolios.
Few people have heard from Tiger Post-Hydrant, but it's a good bet he's feeling like 2009 couldn't end soon enough.
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