I saw an Associated Press story talking about Tiger’s return to the PGA Tour at the Masters in two weeks, and was struck by one observation by a professor who specializes in sports communications.
The article, in noting the extraordinary television ratings that the Masters earns every year and the certainty that this year will be way off even those imposing charts, also talked about the unique situation that prevails every year at Augusta National.
With just three major corporate sponsors – IBM, AT&T and ExxonMobil – the AP pointed out that the Masters is legendary in its strict restrictions on logos appearing on the golf course, for example. It also mentioned the virtually unbelievable limits placed on television commercials, citing nearly eight hours of coverage last year yielding about 36 minutes of commercials, according to Nielsen. Hell, I’ve sat through that many commercials in a darkened movie theatre while I tried frantically to get accustomed to my 3D glasses.
“It is the cleanest venue you’d ever see,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at University of Oregon. “The absence of corporate monikers is pretty striking for the NASCAR-ization we see in sports today.”
I’m sure Hootie Johnson likes having his exalted tournament mentioned in the same breath as NASCAR.
At that point in the article, things get a little dicey when the AP opines that “It probably doesn’t matter how well Woods even plays.”
Really? “When it comes to his brand, it is irrelevant how he does,” said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
He said the companies that have stood by Woods will continue to, but it will be be a while before he can lure any new sponsors.
“He is now a soap opera character in the tabloid reality show,” Sweeney said.
Not much there to quibble about, except for that tiny little part about it being irrelevant how he does. I guess I’d love to hear more detail about that theory, since it flies in the face of what we used to laughingly refer to as “common sense.”
For example, it would seem to me to be particularly relevant how he does on the first two days, since that would determine whether he’s around to flash the Nike logo on the last two days.
But that’s just me.