- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

General Motors’ decision to end its nine-year marketing relationship with Tiger Woods was about as surprising as seeing the golfer break par at a local muni.

No doubt, the struggling Detroit automaker could not justify shelling out upward of $7 million a year in the hope Woods might help sell a few Buicks. And Woods, who isn’t big on failure, was surely not keen on latching himself onto a company on the verge of a government bailout or bankruptcy.

There has always been a question, however, whether the Woods-Buick partnership made sense in the first place. From Buick’s point of view, the deal was designed to help attract a younger, hipper car buyer. But Woods, though successful and reasonably charismatic, doesn’t appeal to Gen-Y crowd in the same way as someone from the NFL, NBA or the X Games might. Industry consultant Strategic Vision Inc. found that less than 0.5 percent of Buicks sold so far this year were purchased by people younger than 34. The median age of a Buick buyer is 68.

Woods, for his part, did his best to show up for all of the Buick-sponsored tournaments, and fans never saw him drive any other type of car. (Although it’s unclear whether anyone actually has seen him drive anything other than a golf ball.) But there always has been a feeling that, if he had his druthers, he would have a big garage filled with a couple of Mercedes, a Maybach and an Escalade for transporting the wife and kid.

“One of the worst deals in sports marketing will officially come to an end at the end of the year,” CNBC’s Darren Rovell wrote this week. “Tiger Woods and Buick. I don’t blame General Motors. I don’t blame Tiger.”

It’s easy to read between the lines of statements made by Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, who said ending the partnership with Buick was a mutual decision.

“It was a combination of things,” Steinberg told the Associated Press. “Tiger was looking to gain some more time, and certainly it was an opportunity for GM to reduce its spending with everything going on.”

Like Michael Jordan before him, Woods has reached a unique point: Marketing deals are becoming less about endorsing a product and more about creating entirely new brands. He already has launched his own brand of Gatorade sports drinks, for instance, and has his own line of Nike golf equipment and apparel. It is unlikely Buick would be able to offer anything similar, and the notion of a Tiger-branded car is just weird anyway.

-CBS announced it will show the championship game of the Atlantic 10 basketball tournament beginning in 2010. Previously, it had aired on ESPN. The move follows an announcement that the A-10 will play all opening-round tournament games at campus sites. CBS already shows the championship games of the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-10 and Conference USA. …

On Sunday, Comcast Sportsnet will air a tribute to former Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was murdered a year ago this week. Coverage will include an interview by Chick Hernandez with Sean Taylor’s father, interviews with teammates and a look at last year’s team.



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