The Un-Marketing of Tiger Woods

Recently I was a guest on the Golf Unfiltered podcast and the discussion shifted to Bridgestone Golf and their continued absence at the PGA Show. My take on that matter was that their absence was warranted due to the launch cycle of their products and the costs associated with attending. During that portion of the show, I also mentioned that there was a rumor going around that the golf division was not using Tiger Woods in their messaging as instructions were handed down by the parent company due to the previous related impaired driving incident.

As soon as the rumors came to us, I reached out to Bridgestone Golf, both the company and their separate public relations firm, and the original comment from their PR firm was non-committal but said they did not believe that to be the case. No further comment was received from the company and we mentioned on the above podcast that the thought was a little too  much of a conspiracy theory, unless we wanted to throw on our tin foil hats.

Fast forward about 5 days and we have heard the same thing from three separate sources including one inside their Covington, GA offices that the edict was in fact true [according to them]. That the brand was told not to use Tiger Woods in any original promotional materials, advertising or messaging until further notice (which may have just come down).

This would be a complete 180 from what we are seeing from the other sponsors of the icon (and Bridgestone last year), that have been showcasing the former world #1 at every chance they get, and rightfully so. Still moving the needle like no other golfer on the planet right now, Woods is poised to continue his return and with it come the ratings. Just a few weeks ago, at Torrey Pines, with Tiger in the field, CBS scored their highest ratings at that course in 5 years with 4.1 million viewers tuning in for the final round, up 30% from last year and over 70% from the year prior.

Bridgestone had no further comment when asked, but Corey Consuegra, Senior Director of Marketing, said “we have a new campaign set to launch this month that will feature Tiger as the focal point”.

What the above shows is that the Tiger Effect is still real and still strong, so the idea that a brand might have pulled the biggest name in golf from their marketing, even temporarily is one that would make most fans scratch their heads. This week the comeback continues for Woods at the Genesis Open, yet if you cruise over to the social media outlets for Bridgestone Golf, you will not see a single original piece of content featuring the 14 time major winner and current endorser of their golf ball (at the time of this publishing).

Over the last month, you have seen press releases and even articles touting the record year that Bridgestone had in 2017. Shipping more golf balls than they had done previously, which is all true. Left out of those articles is that the company lost more money than it had in recent memory and the reason for the big shipment numbers is that the entire line of golf balls was on heavy promotion for much of 2017.

Rewind a few years and Bridgestone Golf was in a heavy growth pattern and firmly in the #2 spot in golf ball marketshare behind Titleist, getting close to the 20% number. The last 24-36 months have not been as kind, “Golf ball sales and our dollar marketshare have continued to erode”, said a source inside Bridgestone Golf headquarters. The company was surpassed by Callaway shortly after the launch of the Chrome Soft product and just last year TaylorMade Golf made their move as well, with their popular TP5 and TP5x line. Bridgestone has chosen to abandon the physical location ball fitting model that made them popular (at least nation wide), and opt for the self fitting mobile application that they released last year, which has been marred by mixed reviews at best. The company does have continued plans to expand that application with the goal of touching more golfers to make informed decisions.

Continuing the trend of this spiral, THP has confirmed that at least two major retailers have been questioning a number of marketing and strategy decisions put forth by the company and the new lineup might be losing shelf space, both physically and virtually as the year moves on. Will you, the golfer, continue to support the brand if they become harder to find? What is lost in all of this is the new Tour B product, which is a shame because based on THP Forum reviews and our internal testing feedback has been very positive on these golf balls. Can a product that is very good to great, stand on it’s own without solid marketing? The answer, according to the retailer sources we have spoken with, is no.

What do you make of these rumors? Much to do about nothing or is there something there as we watch the other sponsors of this iconic athlete continue to show off their wares? Let us know in the comments below, or join us for the conversation on the THP Forum here.

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  • This is weirdly fascinating and i am a big B guy. my store told me that they have a number of sales already in place for the new balls so i am waiting to try them.

  • I’ve never been a Bridgestone guy, from clubs to balls, but I hate to hear and see this from the company. I hope Bridgestone golf stays in the OEM race because more competition is a good thing for us consumers. Actually surprised if the rumor about Tiger branding put to a halt is true.

  • I like to party and Bridgestone doesn’t.

  • Interesting, if it’s all true! Why would they hesitate when consumers are obviously, not worried about Tiger’s past? I love their golf balls and will continue to use them as long as they are available as I purchase golf equipment that works for me and I do not purchase marketing.

  • Just seems like an absolute cluster to me. You have the top horse in the race and are hesitant to ride him?

  • You do a pretty good writing for a guy who says he’s not a writer. Very interesting!

  • Suffice to say, I’m not sure Bridgestone within itself is not on the same page. Seems like they can’t get out of their own way and it has cost them huge market share and profitability in the process. Hope they can get back on track because I still love the Tour B line.

  • Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the column.

  • Interesting thoughts JB. I think Bridgestone is going to struggle if they don’t make some drastic changes pretty quickly. Not marketing the ball fitting is a mistake in my opinion.

  • Interesting read for sure. I can’t say that I disagree with the idea of holding TW out of ad campaigns while all the DUI stuff went away, but they really should have had some fresh marketing ready when he tee’d it up again. Tiger is great example of sports fans having a very short memory when our heroes make a mistake. He does in fact move the needle more than any other golfer on the planet and the fact that he’s using a Bridgestone ball for every single shot he takes on the course should be HUGE publicity for Bridgestone Golf. I’ve been a fan of the brand, both clubs and balls for a while so I hope they can right the ship and get some of that market share back. Using TW primarily in their ads would be a great step in that direction for sure.

  • Seems like they can’t get their story straight. They make good products, but people won’t buy them if they can’t find them. End of story. If they think otherwise, they are sorely mistaken. Unless they completely overhaul their price model…

  • I think it really comes down to the money for Bridgestone. Maybe the contract with Tiger was too much for them, especially coming off a year where they lost more money than in years prior, and they felt they could skate by with saying that it was due to his past. I really enjoy their golf balls, and was a huge B330 RX guy, but their overall strategy as a golf brand company does seem pretty confusing right now.

  • Great read JB, very insightful and interesting take on the direction of a once great brand.

    I blame the new CEO, it seemed like they were poised to make some serious moves in the golf space at the end of 2016 but they took a huge step back in 2017.

    The frustrating thing is, I don’t believe the product quality is suffering, it’s just the message put forth and I think that is the CEO.

    If their products are the best performer for me I will game them, but I won’t go out of my way to rep the brand anymore because the CS has suffered as well.

  • Very interesting read JB and very well done. I feel Tiger is the only golfer that moves the needle and Bridgestone needs to do everything they can to use that to there advantage. Will profits dwindling and product not moving like it once did they need help in big way. I really think the in person ball fitting going away was a huge mistake. Hoping they turn it around and begin to grow again

  • As a Bridgestone Fan of their clubs and ball, I think this is a huge mistake. With all the publicity that Tiger is generating, now to cut him out of their advertising, that’s dumb. I think they have great clubs, very underrated and if you don’t know how good they are no one would think twice about buying them (and the fact that you can’t find them). I just glad I have my Tour B CB’s and XD-3 Driver as I think the BS club division is going to go the same route as Nike….

  • Great read! Not sure why Bridgestone would not let its thoroughbred out of the barn. Is there some back story about Tiger that is yet to come out on social media, e.g. PGA suspension for PEDs or pain killers? Not trying to stir the pot or get a reaction,, but seems bizarre to invest in TW to help brand your products and not go all out.

  • I think it’s important to note that Bridgestone Golf signed Tiger Woods. The parent company put the edict out to not feature him. The good news for the brand is that it appears to be coming to an end as the article states, as they have a new campaign coming this month with him featured.

  • Nice post

  • […] Hitching a star name to a product is nothing new in marketing. Doing so and charging a premium is a great way for a company to make higher margins and give the fans something different to grab a hold of. The unique part of this story ties into our previous one on the “Un-Marketing of Tiger Woods” and if you missed that, you can find it here. […]

  • Amazing Post. I like it..

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