Hate to be cynical, but perhaps Tiger Woods‘ public act of contrition today was related to an AT&T statement about its sponsorship of the golfer that came right around the same time Woods posted his remarks on his website. From AT&T Spokeswoman Susan Bean to the media today:
“We support Tiger’s decision and our thoughts will be with him and his family. We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him.”
That is the first statement AT&T has made publicly about its sponsorship of Woods, which includes headlining his personal PGA Tour Stop in Washington, DC. (AT&T National.)
In its limited remarks, the company sounds considerably less enthusiastic about continuing its association with the golfer than fellow Woods sponsors Gatorade and Nike - which have repeatedly pledged support of Woods. (Though Gatorade recently discontinued a Woods-branded drink.)
The AT&T gesture leaves open the possibility that the company could drop Woods altogether. If that happens, perhaps it could create a domino effect with other sponsors.
You cannot underestimate the effect AT&T’s non-committal potentially has on Woods’ livelihood. The vast majority of his annual, reported nine-figure earnings derive from sponsorship deals, and AT&T certainly is one of his highest profile business partners.
Was AT&T’s announcement, which came out of the blue today and was the first response from the company since the original NATIONAL ENQUIRER story about Woods’ infidelity three weeks ago, completely coincidental? Or did Woods go ahead with his public apology to his family and plea for privacy after getting word from his prominent sponsor?
Woods was most likely aware of AT&T’s plans before he released his statement, but at this point in the game he was far from surprised and would’ve likely issued his apology today anyway.