While some readers were discussing morality clauses in the contracts of Tiger Woods, Accenture apparently used its clause to get out of their high-profile deal with Woods. This wasn’t just commercials. A few years ago, my sister, who worked for Accenture at the time, went to an event in Miami after the Masters (Woods’ win over Chris Dimarco) where Woods gave a lengthy speech to execs and key clients.
Regardless, the question has come up about whether Tiger would have had the influence to keep a morality clause out of his deals. I think that’s unlikely. If you are a company negotiating with Woods — and paying a premium for his ultra-clean, pro-family image, as well as his abilities on the golf course — and suddenly Mark Steinburg says, “Hey, don’t think we’re comfortable with that morality clause,” what message would that send? It would appear to say that there’s something going on in Tiger’s life that could come out and embarrass a business. And that wouldn’t really be particularly smart when negotiating a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal.
Interestingly, most of these contracts, I’m told, now have morality clauses for the companies as well, meaning the athlete, star, etc., can get out of the deal if the company pulls a Stanford Financial or a Madoff. So these things work both ways, and I’m sure there’s no debate on whether Tiger violated his morality clause when there’s a chick on the cover of News of the World saying she banged Tiger while his beloved father died. Nothing says you’re a tight, close family like hooking up with a blonde chick you met in Vegas while your father dies of prostate cancer.
Yesterday I was watching TSN’s “The Reporters,” which had a bunch of guys who never write about golf — The Star’s Damien Cox, ESPN’s Michael Farber and the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons — talking about Woods. They all agreed that Tiger had not done anything comparable to say Michael Vick and that he should be able to come back whenever he wants. Of course that’s true in one sense — he didn’t fight any dogs to the death. And while he can surely come back when he chooses, I don’t think he’ll ever be the $100-million man.
His status as a pitchman is damaged beyond fixing at this point. He has his $1-billion and he could quite likely make $10-million a year on the course, but don’t expect him to return to the point where he has a handful of companies paying him $10M a piece to use his image. It is broken like a dropped mirror. He’s worth a fraction of what he once was.
Sure Woods the golfer can return to the game. But Woods the sports and markting icon is finished.