Time Heals All – A Bit of Positive PR and Great Golf Doesn’t Hurt Either

Posted by on August 7th, 2013

Thanksgiving 2009 almost seems like a lifetime ago, and if you’re Tiger Woods, you couldn’t be more pleased.   As all of you remember, that was the day when Tiger’s highly controlled image was blown to smithereens.  Not only did his wife (allegedly :) ) attack him with a Nike driver after finding out about his cheating ways and decide to leave him, soon thereafter most of his sponsors kicked him to the curb, instantly erasing tens of millions of dollars in annual endorsement income.  At the time, no amount of PR could have put lipstick on this pig.

Who would have thought that Tiger Woods was capable of such missives?  Clean cut, polite, single-minded about eclipsing the great Jack Nicklaus with the most Career Majors.

Or so we were made to think.

Chalk one up to great public relations.

The interesting thing is that much of what the general public was exposed to throughout Tiger’s career came down to public relations…really good public relations.  In addition, Tiger was aided and abetted by the PGA tour, its players and sponsors, who were far too smart to overturn the applecart.  Truth be told, Tiger was known by these tour insiders to be anything but gentleman.  But like good soldiers, these individuals toed-the-line, knowing that their sport’s popularity and good fortune was linked to Tiger’s continued success. Therefore, most everyone spoke glowingly about the virtues of Tiger Woods – further fueling the Tiger Woods PR machine.

But a funny thing happened when Tiger became 2009’s Thanksgiving turkey.  In addition to spousal and corporate abandonment, many players came out of the woodwork, taking Tiger to task for actions on and off the course, adding fuel to the anti-Tiger PR firestorm.

Call it comeuppance, but Tiger was now on his own to clean up this mess.

Spring forward more than four years later to last Sunday as Tiger once again asserted his dominance of the PGA tour, closing out the WGC Bridgestone Championship to win by seven strokes – his fifth win of 2013.   With his game once again becoming the focus for sponsors, players and fans, alike, Tiger’s star is once again on the assent.

In addition for letting his game do the talking, Tiger has skillfully used the power of public relations to further right the ship.

  1. Instead of giving his usual surly, one and two word responses during press interviews and conferences, Tiger is finally opening up the kimono and availing himself in a much more positive fashion.
  2. In addition, Tiger is cleaning up his language on the golf course.  Previously he was known to act less than a gentleman in the sport of gentlemen, freely cursing at himself, even on live TV.  Today, while he remains the greatest competitor in the game of golf – or any sport for that matter – he has done a yeoman’s job of cleaning up his foul mouth.  So much so that it wouldn’t surprise me if he got an Orbit Gum sponsorship!
  3. When it became clear that the media was going to have a field day regarding his relationship with professional skier, Lindsey Vonn, he utilized his PR savvy to control the message – scooping the press and beating them at their own game, using Twitter to announce his relationship – and providing a perfect photo of the two – before the media could get its teeth into the story.
  4. And finally, last Sunday as he triumphantly strode towards the scorers tent, he deftly used NBC to broadcast live his youngest child, Charlie, running into his arms and being carried off the course – giving a rare glimpse into Tiger as the family man.

So maybe time does heal all.  But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have strong public relations support smooth out any rough edges.

In the immortal words of Tony the Tiger, You’re Grrrrrrrrrrrrreat!!!