Tiger, Daly, and the economics of bad boy brands

[Cache – #112]

A colleague of mine thinks Tiger is faking it.  That Tiger has been playing poorly on purpose, to generate sympathy and crawl his way back into our hearts.  That he believes we’re all as gullible as Lindsey Vonn.

We do have to remember that “poorly” for Tiger is winning a mere six of his last 20 tournaments – six being the number of tourneys that, in the entire 100-year history of the PGA, less than 200 players have won, period.  But it’s still a meagre figure for a guy who has won 77, including 14 “majors” – the especially prized tournaments, among them The Masters, which plays out this weekend.

Of course it isn’t Tiger’s behaviour on the golf course that has caught the most attention in recent years, but his philandering off of it.  Anyone who still believes “there is no such thing as bad publicity” should ask Tiger (or Lance Armstrong) for his thoughts on the matter.  Gatorade, AT&T, Accenture, Gillette, Golf Digest and Tag Heuer all terminated their Tiger endorsements, costing him an estimated $23 million in 2010 alone; add to that the subsequent two years, and we arrive at a loss of $69 million and counting.  And then there is the small matter of the estimated $100 million his divorce settlement cost him.

A brand is what people think of you, and we haven’t been thinking too highly of Tiger Woods.  But I have heard an alternative view: that there is brand equity to be had in being a bad boy.  In being a John Daly, for example – the over-smoking, -drinking, -divorcing, -eating, -gambling golfer whose run of major wins totalled two and ended twenty years ago, and who is now ranked as the 246th-best player in the world.  In “Five Reasons Golf Fans Love John Daly,” his considerable fan base is said to love him because his life is a real one, with complications they can identify with, because he loves his fans right back, and because he has one of the very few instantly recognizable brands on tour:  that of “grip it and rip it,” which “encapsulates his fierce attack on the golf ball” and legendarily long drives.

john daly after domestic incident

But for all of his lovability, and career winnings of $9 million, Daly’s net worth is just one ninth of that.  Because the bad behaviour for which fans love him has nearly destroyed him.  He has gambled away an astounding $50 million (admittedly, after winning an astounding $40 million).  His four divorces cost him $40,000 every month in support.

Tiger’s brand has taken a major hit, and Daly’s has been getting pummeled for years.  Tiger will win again – and maybe again and again – and Daly probably won’t.  And we will continue to watch – partly from hoping them to win, partly from hoping to see the next chapter in their train wrecks.


Newsflash:  Brand: It Ain’t the Logo is Number One on the Globe and Mail’s list of business bestsellers for the month of March.

brand: it ain't the logo - The #1 Globe and Mail business bestseller - Ted Matthews with Andris Pone -
In case you missed it:  my short interview on CBC Radio One about IKEA’s horse meat problem.
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Also in case you missed it:  My BNN interview re. Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at the 3:30 mark, after the ad).

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