Saturday, October 03, 2009


How did Tiger Woods "earn" $1 billion?

The report has come out that Tiger Woods has become the first professional athlete to "earn" $1 billion. But what does that tell us? How is that possible?

Sure, Woods "earned" that money by being a great golfer, the greatest of his generation and arguably the greatest ever. But their are lots of talented athletes in this world, in all sorts of sports, most of whom make the tiniest fraction of what Woods has made, some of them who make nothing at all. Golf is a spectator sport, but nowhere near on a par with the "major" sports like football, baseball, basketball, hockey (etc.?). The money that comes into golf tournaments, the money that pays Tiger Woods part of the billion dollars, comes from sponsorships from big companies - insurance companies, car companies, etc. Why do they sponsor golf instead of, say, cycling? Because their executives are golfers and like to hobnob with the golfers, maybe play in the "pro-am" tournament the day before the real tournament.

Do sports actually pay off as a marketing vehicle, returning more business than is paid out as the marketing expense? In rare specific cases, yes. Nike did come from nowhere in the golf business to become a major player, thanks to its sponsorship of Woods. But of course that came at the expense of other golf products companies; it had no value for society as a whole whatsoever.
As far as the "branding" kind of marketing being useful, the evidence for that is non-existent. Woods won the money that pushed him over the top at the "FedEx cup." Are the people watching on TV or on the course now more likely to send their business to FedEx instead of UPS? Is AT&T getting more business because baseball fans in San Francisco watch games at "AT&T Park"? Sports marketing is ego-tripping by executives and nothing more, and the billion dollars that Tiger Woods (and all the other overpaid professional athletes) has "earned" could have found much better use paying for the salaries of workers who were instead laid off, or lowering insurance rates so more people could afford insurance, or any number of other socially useful causes.

In a rational world. In a socialist world.

Why stop here? There's more...

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