Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tiger, Accenture and a celebrity endorsement gone bad.

Editors Note: This article originally appeared on Loyalty Truth on December 13, 2009. A few days later Accenture announced they had broken ties with Woods.

For me, the most compelling question to arise from the tawdry Tiger Woods scandal isn’t whether his wife will leave him, but whether his corporate sponsors will. In particular, the management consulting company Accenture.

We’re not talking energy drinks or golf shoes here, Accenture is a starched white collar Fortune Global 500 firm that, excuse the analogy, is figuratively in bed with Tiger. In the words of Accenture’s own Web site:

Since 2003, Tiger Woods has been the centerpiece of Accenture advertising. As perhaps the world's ultimate symbol of high performance, he serves as a metaphor for our commitment to helping companies become high-performance businesses.

A metaphor for your commitment to helping companies? Well Accenture, I’m thinking that right now Tiger Woods is not exactly the paragon of commitment.

Yet, a visit to accenture.com a full week after the scandal broke revealed he is still gracing the company’s home page. The headline, over a big color image of Woods apparently looking for a misplayed shot, reads: "Opportunity isn't always obvious." Which, like virtually any headline used with Tiger these days, can be followed up by a punchline. (Sure, opportunity isn’t always obvious. Sometimes you have to go to the back room of a Vegas lounge to find it!)

Naughty behavior is always a danger when using a celebrity as your spokesperson. But the fact is, when using a celebrity, even one as previously squeaky clean as Woods, you’ve got to be prepared for a worse case scenario. In this case, I think it would have been smart for Accenture to put Tiger on the shelf for at least a few weeks or months until the scandal blew over

Accenture’s TV commercials used to end with the line “Just another day in the life of a Tiger”. And if that becomes the perception of the company’s attitude toward the Wood’s scandal—that they’ve chosen to ignore the negative implications of being tied to the Tiger—Accenture is going to turn off more than a few current and potential clients.

Tom Rapsas is 20-year direct and loyalty marketing veteran and heads up Creative Services at Hanifin Loyalty. He can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas.

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