Nike’s Phil Knight: Tiger Mess Is a “Minor Blip”

Tripp Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL has the first comments today from Nike Chairman and co-founder Phil Knight about the company’s continuing business relationship with Tiger Woods.

Phil Knight With Tiger Woods Mother Tida

(Woods mother Tida and Nike co-Founder Phil Knight)

Mickle: You look at someone like Tiger Woods and this episode of infidelity. Does this change the concept of building brands around athletes?
Knight: Not for us. It’s part of the game.

Mickle: With Tiger, a person who was believed to be of more upstanding character beforehand, is it possible to check for everything?
Knight: Obviously, he was one we checked out and he came out clean, and I think he’s been really great. When his career is over, you’ll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now.

Thanks to media reports now confirmed by Woods, the greatest golfer of all time has quit his sport, his personal life is a shambles and his major sponsors, besides Nike, are abandoning him.

That’s a “minor blip“?

So why is Knight playing down Woods’ negative publicity? Because Nike has the most invested in Woods and without him the Nike golf division probably wouldn’t exist.

Nike Golf does $800M in sales and roughtly $500M of that is directly connected to Woods-branded Nike golf merchandise.

In other words, Knight has a half-billion reasons to casually react to the golfer’s personal and professional crisis. Though Woods’ contribution to Nike sales does amount to only about five percent of the company’s yearly retail bottom line

While eventually Woods will return to golf and the media frenzy will end, I can’t imagine him moving product in the future as he has in the past. Those days are not coming back. And when it comes to Nike’s Woods-fueled $500M in annual golf sales, I think Knight’s company is headed for a healthy correction.