Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sports Tiger of a Different Stripe Golf Phenom Woods Could Set Record in Endorsements, Too

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sports Tiger of a Different Stripe Golf Phenom Woods Could Set Record in Endorsements, Too

Article excerpt

Nike Inc. raised some eyebrows in August when it signed Tiger Woods to a $40 million contract, making the rookie golfer one of the world's highest-paid sports endorsers.

What seemed extravagant now looks like a bargain.

Woods, 21, smashed records this past weekend as he became the youngest and first black winner of the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. The historic victory catapults Woods into the top ranks of endorsers, and maybe beyond. How big? Many experts and agents wouldn't even try to guess. "You can just dream up a number and whatever you come up with, it's going to be close to attainable," said Ralph Cindrich, one of the leading sports agents in the National Football League. "No sports figure right now has his marketability." That's good news for Nike and American Brands Inc., the two companies the budding superstar has signed on with as an endorser. Appeal Of A Higher Degree Woods's appeal goes beyond the traditional golfing crowd, analysts said, meaning he'll draw people from all races, genders and ages to what is typically a white, older and wealthy sport. "He will break down the last bastions," said Brian Murphy, managing editor of the Sports Marketing Letter, a Connecticut-based newsletter. "He will be the first man of color to become a completely credible spokesperson for the highest of high-end goods and luxury items." Woods cruised to a 12-stroke victory at Augusta National in the 61st Masters Tournament, shooting a course-record 18-under par 270. It was his fourth win on the U.S. PGA Tour since leaving Stanford University to turn pro. The $480,000 first-place check from the Masters gives Woods $1,757,594 in earnings since he turned pro on Aug. 27. But Woods is in this for more than money. He has one measuring stick - to be the best golfer ever. While Nike doesn't make golfing equipment, Woods's success has spurred demand for the clothes and shoes he wears. That's in contrast to other golf endorsers such as Jack Nicklaus, whose appeal is more about their clubs and golfballs. "There's nothing in Tiger's set of clubs that will cause people to go and buy what he uses," said Michael May of the Sporting Goods M anufacturing Association. There's plenty of growth to tap into. U.S. sales of golf merchandise are expected to rise 40 percent to about $21 billion in 2000 from $15 billion in 1994. People spend more on equipment for golf than any other sport. Clothing sales are expected to reach $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion from $1.2 billion, according to a report by analyst Joseph Teklits of Ladenburg Thalmann. For now, Nike said it plans to focus on clothes and shoes. "If we can bring value and something new to the golf equipment area, we may look at that possibility," said Jim Small, spokesman for Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike, the world's biggest maker of athletic shoes and clothing. Woods's popularity may make it possible for him to attract sales of products in other sports such as running, said Small. Nike plans to offer a Woods line of signature products in about a year, Small said, just as it sells "Air Jordan" goods endorsed by Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan. …

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