Tiger's Sponsors Stick With Him for Now

Gatorade says decision to drop "Focus" drink line was made months ago.

Dec. 9, 2009 — -- Tiger Woods may be on shaky ground with his wife and fans, but so far, his corporate sponsors seem to be sticking by him.

Companies from Gillette to Golf Digest and NetJets have all said this week they will continue using Woods to promote their goods, even as allegations of sexual dalliances swirled around him.

"Tiger Woods is one of the premiere athletes in the world and we are proud to have him involved with NetJets," said David Sokol, chairman and CEO of NetJets, which sells private planes.

Other sponsors, including Nike and the video game maker Electronic Arts,said last week they would stand by the star but did not respond to ABC News requests for comment Tuesday.

The only company to have dropped an endorsement is Gatorade, which said it will discontinue its "Gatorade Tiger Focus" line. Gatorade reportedly asserts that the decision was made several months ago, though, and, in fact, a beverage magazine published the news days before any allegations of extramarital affairs were made.

Marketers are waiting to see if any companies will change their endorsements directly in response to the scandal.

Tiger Woods' image as a family man has been tarnished in the past two weeks, following reports that he had extramarital affairs with at least nine women, including a porn star and a cocktail waitress. The stories began Nov. 27, when Woods drove into a fire hydrantt outside his home in Windermere, Fla., possibly after an argument with his wife,Elin Nordegren

The Worth of a Woods Autograph

Retailers wonder if fans of Woods are now thinking twice about buying his autographs and branded golf shirts.

"People are nervous about paying $1,000 for his signatures because their value might go down," said Mike Gallucci, vice president of operations at SportMemorabilia.com, a large vendor of sporting souvenirs. He said sales of Tiger Woods photos, pinflags and clubs have dropped by almost half.

"Around Christmas, you get a lot of parents buying for their kids, and if they don't view the athlete as a role model their purchases go down."

Woods Is 'Different'

Woods' legendary golf skills and his reputation as afamily man propelled him to the top of many corporations' wish lists as a star endorser. He has earned more than $100 million annually, and, according to Forbes magazine, more than $1 billion over his career thus far, thanks partly to endorsement deals with companies such as Nike, Tag Heuer, Accenture and Gillette.

Other athletes – such as Kobe Bryant, who was accused of rape in 2003 – have sometimes taken years to repair their images. Bryant lost an endorsement deal with McDonald's in 2004 after the fast-food maker refused to renew his contract.

But experts say Woods is different, as one of the few athletes with crossover appeal who can attract consumers from all walks of life.

"Tiger Woods has more recognition than anybody, and in a strange way, this increases his recognition," said Larry D. Woodard, CEO of Vigilante Advertising. He said Woods' brand may be tarnished for now, but corporate sponsors are unlikely to drop him cold.

Bill Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, said companies link themselves to Woods primarily for his excellence as a golfer.

"Companies align themselves with Tiger for his on-field performance as opposed to his off-field performance," said Chipps. "Strength under pressure, focus, that's what he's known for."

Winning Bid

Some people are trying to profit from the scandal. Listings of Tiger Woods-related items on eBay have soared, according to the company. In the week before the scandal broke, eBay had 4,606 items for sale under his name; it now lists 7,680.

Spirit Airlines, meanwhile, launched an "Eye of the Tiger" ad in the wake of the scandal, running an ad featuring an actual tiger driving an SUV into a fire hydrant.

"It's a jungle out there!" says the ad. "Make sure you avoid all the obstacles and get the lowest fares."

ABC News' Daniel Arnall, Alice Gomstyn and Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.