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Tiger Woods and Nike Part Ways After Nearly 30 Years

One of the longest-running and most lucrative athlete partnerships in the history of sports is over. Tiger Woods and Nike have called it quits, according to a statement from the 15-time major winner.

“Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate to start a partnership with one of the most iconic brands in the world,” Woods posted on social media. “The days since have been filled with so many amazing moments and memories, if I started naming them, I could go on forever. Phil Knight’s passion and vision brought this Nike and Nike Golf partnership together and I want to personally thank him, along with the Nike employees and incredible athletes I have had the pleasure of working with along the way.”

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In 1996, Nike signed a then-20-year-old Woods to a five-year contract worth $40 million that coincided with him turning pro. “Hello world” was how Woods kicked off his first press conference as a pro, the slogan Nike used in its first ad campaign with Woods. Nike was new to the golf business and built a golf division on the back of Woods.

As Woods piled up major championships, Nike’s golf revenue soared, and Woods’ annual paycheck eventually topped $20 million. Nike golf sales peaked at $792 million in 2013.

But in 2016, the company pulled the plug on its equipment business, ending plans for any future clubs, balls or golf bags. The company continued to produce golf apparel for the likes of Woods, Rory McIlroy and other top golfers, including shoes and Woods’ signature red shirts for Sundays, while Woods signed deals to use TaylorMade clubs and Bridgestone balls.

For months, there have been rumblings that Nike is looking to abandon the golf business entirely. It is a tiny piece of the company’s overall revenue, which was $51.5 billion over the last four quarters. Jason Day had been with Nike since 2016 but debuted this year as the first PGA Tour ambassador for Malbon Golf.

In December, Nike announced layoffs and a $2 billion cost-cutting plan.

“Tiger, you challenged your competition, stereotypes, conventions, the old school way of thinking,” Nike said in a statement on Instagram. “You challenged the entire institution of golf. You challenged us. And most of all, yourself. And for that challenge we’re grateful.”

Woods, 48, is far from the first iconic Nike athlete to part with the brand near the end of his career. Andre Agassi was a Nike ad campaign staple but joined Adidas before he hung up his tennis racket for good. Roger Federer split with Nike in 2018 and parlayed the move into a pair of lucrative new pacts—he signed a 10-year, $300 million apparel deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo, and he aligned with Swiss sneaker brand On with an equity component worth more than $200 million.

Woods returned to competitive golf last month at the Hero World Challenge, where he also serves as tournament host. It was his first event in eight months after surgery to address pain in his ankle and foot. Woods said he hoped to play “maybe a tournament a month” in 2024 and cited the Genesis International at The Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles as a possible spot to start his year, as he did in 2023.

Despite the injuries that have kept him off the course, Woods remains an incredibly popular pitchman with sponsors that include Bridgestone, Hero, Kowa, Monster Energy and TaylorMade. Among active athletes, only LeBron James earned more annually than Tiger from endorsements before his Nike deal ended.

“People will ask if there is another chapter,” Woods wrote. “Yes, there will certainly be another chapter. See you in LA!”

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