Accenture, the business consulting group, confirmed it was ending its association with Woods, saying he was ‘no longer the right representative'. The news follows the decision by Gillette last week to limit the use of Woods in its advertising campaigns.
Sports PR experts now believe that more sponsors will follow suit, after two weeks of damaging claims about Woods' private life have dominated the world's media.
Threepipe co-founder Eddie May, who heads up the agency's sports division, said: ‘I think that now the scale of his misdemeanours is becoming apparent, it's going to be very difficult for a lot of his sponsors to stick by him. It will be quite a while before they can use him in their marketing again without being laughed at, and now he's having an indefinite break from the game they'll be questioning the value of having any association with him.'
He added: ‘I think we'll see a few more sponsors either publicly dropping him, or quietly not renewing their contract. Nike, which has a very deep and long-term relationship, will probably stick with him for the long haul, but others will find it difficult to justify.'
Sports PR professionals initially believed that Woods' image would not be damaged in the long-term (PRWeek.com, 4 December). However, as increasingly lurid revelations about his private life continued to make worldwide headlines, the Tiger Woods brand has since become irrevocably tainted.
‘Whether more sponsors will also decide to end their association with Woods will depend on how his PR continues to be handled,' said Braben Sport director Rachel Froggatt. ‘The PR is being handled far too slowly. The fact that he has not been seen in public since it happened is PR and it makes the speculation worse.'
She added: ‘The decision to take time out is a smart one. It will help the people around him to construct a new appearance for him and to help him to relaunch himself with a new persona. He may lose one or two more sponsors, but the majority will stay and will reshape their messaging around him.'
News emerged over the weekend that lawyers for Woods had obtained a UK injunction preventing certain items about him being published by the media.
Radiator PR MD Gaby Jesson said the injunction seemed to be a desperate move. ‘Some way or another, whatever the story is will still come out anyway. It was a political move to show that he would not lie down and let everything get thrown at him.'