Tiger Woods, the most globally well known golfing athlete and the world’s most famous sports brand, Nike, have officially ended their groundbreaking 27-year partnership. The collaboration, which began when Woods was just 20 years old, has been one of the most high-profile and lucrative in the sports industry, estimated to be worth around $500 million.
In a statement released on social media, Tiger Woods reflected on the partnership: “Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate enough to start a partnership with one of the most iconic brands in the world. The days since have been filled with so many amazing moments and memories. Phil Knight’s passion and vision brought this Nike and Nike Golf partnership together and I personally want to thank him, along with the other Nike employees and incredible athletes I have had the pleasure of working with along the way. People will ask if there is another chapter. Yes, there will certainly be another chapter.”
Nike also took to social media to acknowledge the end of the partnership, posting a message that read: “It was a hell of a round, Tiger.”
Tiger Woods and Nike Splitting is the end of an Era
This partnership was not just financially significant but also played a pivotal role in making Woods one of the most recognized athletes globally. Woods’ victory in 15 majors, often clad in his trademark red Nike shirt, became a defining image in the world of golf. Additionally, his participation in various Nike TV advertisements has been widely celebrated.
The dissolution of this partnership comes as Nike is reportedly aiming to cut $2 billion in costs in the coming years and is scaling down its investment in golf. The company stopped making golf equipment in 2016. Woods’ own career has faced challenges, particularly following a severe car crash in 2021 that greatly impacted his mobility and game.
In a notable shift during the 2021 Masters, Woods wore FootJoy shoes instead of Nikes, citing health considerations. He explained, “I have very limited mobility now… I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable. That’s what I’ve gone to.” Nike supported Woods’ decision at the time, stating their commitment to work with him to meet his new needs.
As the curtain falls on this remarkable partnership, it marks the end of an era in sports marketing, with both Tiger Woods and Nike having significantly influenced the landscape of golf and sports endorsements.
A Brand and Communications Experts Thoughts on the Nike and Tiger Woods Split
Andy Barr a brand, marketing and crisis communications expert from digital agency 10 Yetis Digital said, about the move, “the split makes perfect sense for both parties. Nike needs to cut costs and Tiger undoubtably could launch a brand in his own right. Nike will have been uneasy about supporting any Tiger Woods standalone brand, along the lines of the Jordan basketball brand, because of their famous move away from golf in 2015.
“Nike has its focus firmly elsewhere in the sporting marketplace and ahtletic ecosystem and although golf has had a huge resurgence since COVID the bean counters at Nike still clearly see the sport as a risky business”.
Did Tiger’s Move to Footjoy Spell the Beginning of the End for Nike?
The move has shocked many in the sport, although there were murmurings towards the end of the 2023 golf season that a split was maybe on the cards, especially when Woods changed his footwear to Footjoy. It is clear from reading the autobiography, Shoe Dog, written by the founder and former CEO and current chairman of Nike, Phil Knight that there is a lot of love between the pair.
Not only did Nike stick with Tiger Woods through his troubles, but Phil Knight also says that when his son died, Tiger was the first to turn up at his house to offer his support. Whilst there is clearly a close bond between the pair, the commercial fact is that Nike already has a strong and ever-growing core Golf brand in its very successful Jordan Golf range. They don’t have the spare cash needed to launch and invest in growing a new standalone brand.
The golfing world looks on to see what the next chapter involves for Woods, but our money would be on him launching his own, more affordable, golf brand, along the lines of what Shaquille O’Neil did in the world of basketball.