How many people bought a Buick because Tiger Woods drove one?
Answer: Probably zero
that General Motors won’t renew its 9-year endorsement deal with Woods is no surprise to anyone who watched the Big Three’s CEOs ask
Congress for billions last week. Business is down, and that reported
$7,000,000 per year Woods takes from GM is a pretty big item in the
advertising budget–especially when you want to keep the corporate
plane. In truth, the move is probably a welcome sign of common sense at GM and
at Tiger Woods World Headquarters. The real surprise is that GM ever
used Woods to promote its Buick brand in the first place. Aside from
the fact that no one believed Tiger would choose of his own volition to
drive a Buick—most young, rich athletes prefer something a little more
sporty, like an Aston Martin with two blondes in the back—the kind of
people who drive Buicks aren’t generally in Tiger’s demographic.
"I followed this deal from the beginning and I always thought there was
a disconnect there," said John Murphy, a professor of
advertising at the University of Texas. "The average age of a Buick
owner is 65, and that never appeared to fit with the image of Tiger as
a young, hip guy."
When Woods arrived on the pro sports scene, he was like a rock star, Murphy said. Does a rock star drive a Buick?
his career, Woods has been assiduous in building his brand, and Buick
has always been a strange fit in his portfolio. In one corner, he’s got
Nike, Gatorade, Tag Heuer watches and EA Sports video games — all hip,
best-in-category endorsements. Even Woods’s endorsed financial
consultancy — Accenture — is cool-sounding, if
that’s possible. Then he had Buick, GM’s staid luxury brand, which
appeals to quietly successful businessmen who replace their cars every
couple years. Good, dependable cars for good, dependable people, not
the kind of buyers easily swayed by an athlete endorser, no matter how
many golf tournaments he wins.
From 1984 to 2006, Buick sales
declined 70 percent. Of course, Woods has nothing to do with that, but his
endorsement clearly hasn’t helped much. If General Motors wanted an
endorser who appealed to Buick’s key demographic, they’d probably have
more luck with Robert Wagner.
"It was not a very wise move to begin with," Murphy said of the
mismatched Woods-Buick partnership. "Maybe parting was not as bad as it
appears on the surface."
Murphy said Woods’s reputation for authenticity, focus and hard work
makes him an appealing corporate spokesman, and GM’s decision
doesn’t diminish that. His colleague Neil Burns, another advertising
professor at the University of Texas, said he even considered buying a
Buick recently because of Woods. In the end he didn’t, but he credits
Woods with putting the idea in his mind. GM is selling a lot of Buicks in China, though, where the brand still has allure. Quick, someone
call Yao Ming’s agent! (Tiger Woods with the keys to the first Buick Rendezvous to ever come off the assembly line in 2001. Scott Halleran/Getty Images)