Global consulting firm Accenture PLC has ended its relationship with Tiger Woods, marking the first major sponsor to cut its ties with the golfer since his alleged infidelities surfaced and he announced an indefinite leave from the sport to work on his marriage.
In its first statement since the Woods scandal erupted, Accenture said yesterday the golfer is "no longer the right representative" after the "circumstances of the last two weeks." The move ends a six-year relationship during which the firm credited its "Go on, be a Tiger" campaign with boosting its image significantly. Accenture has used Woods to personify its claimed attributes of integrity and high performance.
Advertising firm Young & Rubicam, which has handled the company's Tiger Woods ads, would not comment on the move.
Accenture's advertising campaign was almost entirely built around Woods and his success, portraying his ability to sink a key putt or hit out of the rough. If Woods had acknowledged mistakes and said he would be back in a month, Accenture might be able to ride it out, said Rick Burton, a professor of sports management at Syracuse University.
But Accenture can't afford to wait for what could be a long time before Woods returns.
"They had tied everything in their campaign to Tiger Woods, it appeared," he said. "If he's not golfing, those ads don't make sense."
Accenture has been title sponsor since 2001 of the Match Play Championship, a lucrative World Golf Championship event that draws the top 64 players from the world ranking. Earlier this year, the company renewed its sponsorship of the tournament through 2014.
While not terminating its relationship, another major Woods sponsor pulled away over the weekend.
On Saturday, Gillette said it would not air advertisements featuring Woods or include him in public appearances for an unspecified time.
Other sponsors continue to stick with Woods.
Electronic Arts, whose EA Sports division has been selling Tiger Woods video golf games for a decade, said yesterday: "We respect that this is a very difficult, and private, situation for Tiger and his family. At this time, the strategy for our Tiger Woods PGA Tour business remains unchanged."
The game's next edition featuring Woods comes out in six months.
Holding out hope. A senior golf official in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said Woods can wait until the last minute to decide whether he wants to play in the Desert Classic there in February.