It’s not often that the worlds of golf and PR collide but that’s what certainly happened today with Tiger Woods’ very public apology for adultery and letting his family and friends down. Seasoned Tiger watchers will have been surprised at his candour – not something he’s been noted for in the past – and also at the emotion he showed in delivering his mea culpa address.
At a time of personal distress for all concerned chez Woods (interesting that his wife wasn’t in the specially selected audience when he spoke) it seems somewhat unseemly to ask how Woods’ statement will play in PR terms. Make no mistake however that every word and syllable will be dissected in the minutest detail by the world’s media and PR experts.
Straight after his statement, PR personality Max Clifford gave Woods’ performance the thumbs up, dubbing it sincere and well put and predicting that it would play well in the US – the golfer’s key audience. Woods’ invocation of his previously hidden Buddhism surprised many and will be viewed by some as a cynical attempt to give his redemption a theoretical and religious base. It will certainly be used by his advisers as further proof of his contrition and his renewed determination to atone and to become a better person.
PR watchers in the US and on this side of the pond will be looking at the reaction of the public and the media that will ultimately dictate whether ‘Brand Woods’ will be able to recover from recent events. The widely held view is that there is too much at stake for too many people to allow Woods not to re-establish himself as the world’s number one golfer and sports advertising cash machine. That may well be the case but it is not a certainty in my view.
As Tiger heads back for more therapy, I would not be surprised if it was a little while yet before he returns to the fairways. When, and if he does, I think he’ll find it difficult to get back to his former position at the top of the game. I wonder if his head will ever again be right enough to fully concentrate on a game where the smallest distraction can knock you off course. And even if he does return, he will face opponents who are no longer overawed by the image of an all powerful and invincible Tiger.