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Just do it: Why Nike boss kept Tiger

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

If you believe Charlie Denson, sticking with Tiger Woods as a Nike product endorser has more to do with Woods’ reputation as a golfer than as a philanderer.

“A lot of people seem to overlook that very, very important component of the relationship with the athlete,” says Denson, president of the Nike brand. “If we’re going to create the greatest product in the world, it’s the greatest athletes in the world [who] are going to confirm that.”

Woods, not to mention other high-profile Nike endorsers, serve as much more than “faces” for Nike products, Denson explains. They also offer the company suggestions for improving the products they endorse.

That, Denson feels, is worth the uncertainty of maintaining Nike’s multimillion-dollar endorsement deal with Woods even after the athlete admitted to extramarital affairs and other indiscretions, while other companies such as AT&T and PepsiCo have ended their ties with the winner of 14 major golf championships and one of the most successful golfers of all time.

Of course, that argument will fall apart if Woods never reclaims his crown as the world’s top golfer. But in the meantime, Denson has shown leadership by finding a more substantive criterion than simple popularity on which to base Nike’s decision about whether to continue working with Woods.

— Adapted from “Tiger Sponsor Stays True,” Roger Blitz, Financial Times.

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