Society & Success

The power of a sporting brand icon

Do you remember Tiger Woods? Some of you may; he was the World Number One for a record total of 683 weeks and was the youngest ever golfer to hold that rank.

Today he is ranked slightly above Kenya’s Richard Ainley at rank 711 on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods turned pro in 1996 and signed a Nike deal worth $40m (Sh400m) and in his first year on Tour banked nearly $800,000 (Sh80m) and signed endorsement contracts worth $43m (Sh4.3bn).

In 2000 he signed another deal with Nike estimated at $85m (Sh8.5bn) and by 2004 Woods was banking over $87m (Sh8.7bn) annually from both earnings on the course and endorsement deals.

Since 2008, Woods has been on a steady decline from the top of the world; his last Major victory was at the 2008 US Open where he defeated Rocco Mediate in a 20-hole playoff and in 2010 he hit a tree and water hydrant with his car and over 20 women emerged from the debris.

In 2010 he issued a live TV apology and by October 2010 lost his Number One ranking to Lee Westwood after 281 straight weeks at the top of the world. In the same year, he lost nearly Sh2bn in endorsements after sponsors including Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade ditched him.

In 2011, facing a large dent on his brand, Woods still banked $62m (Sh6.2bn) and was ranked number one on the Sports Illustrated ‘Fortune 50’ list of the highest paid American athletes for the eighth year in a row! In 2012, Woods lost the title of world’s best paid athlete to boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr; it was the first time since 2004 that Woods would not occupy that slot.

In 2012 Woods earned over $100m (Sh10bn) in a single year, becoming golf’s Billion-dollar-man.

So, how would the limping Tiger fair in the 2016 Forbes list of the World’s highest paid athletes? Despite his time off the golf course, his lack of appearance at all 2016 Major Championships, his nagging back and knee problems, Woods is still ranked 12th with combined endorsements and earnings of $45m (Sh4.5bn).

Due to his time off the golf course, his non-existent victories since 2008, Woods earned a paltry $274,000 (Sh27.4m) as a result of actual winnings, the rest is from endorsements.


Phil Mickelson is the highest ranked golfer on the 2016 Forbes list, in eighth position, with total earnings of $52.9m and Jordan Spieth is nineth with $52.8m.

Whilst Spieth earned $20m on the golf course and $32m in endorsements, Mickelson has a graph very similar to Wood’s with $50m in endorsements and only $2.9m in earnings.

So, what is the moral of the story here? Simple really, as sporting brands start to age and fade away from the stage, their brands off the field of play must continue to rake in the dollars.

Woods has hardly played any golf since 2008, yet there he is, ranked 12th on the 2016 Forbes list. Mickelson has enjoyed Major victories in recent times, but on the course, he is no longer a match for the younger crop of professional golfers – yet there he is, as the top ranked golfer on the same list.

Indeed, active sportsmen like boxer Floyd Mayweather, athlete Usain Bolt and flamboyant footballers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale all earned less than the limping Tiger in 2016. Such is the earning power of the Tiger Woods brand.

Speaking of Usain Bolt, he took home $30m in 2016, a cool Sh3 bn, placing him in 32nd position on the Forbes List of World’s Highest Paid Athletes.

No other track athlete is listed in the Top 100; so where are the Kenyan superstars? Where is David Rudisha? Or Ezekiel Kemboi? What of Faith Kipyegon or Vivian Cheruiyot? Why don’t our athletes bank money off the track? Where are their brands?