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The Tiger Effect

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tigerwoodsIt looks like Tiger Woods is back folks. Sunday he turned in another vintage performance. Tiger sank a birdie putt in dramatic fashion on 18 to win The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, setting up another great storyline for the upcoming Masters.

The big news coming off Tigers first win since his injury were the TV ratings. In a great post on Chicagoland Golf Blog, they write that Bay Hill’s final round scored the highest rating of any golf tournament since last years US Open, the last tournament Tiger played in before taking time off for knee surgery. That means Bay Hill had more viewers than last years British Open and PGA Championship, both major tournaments.

This led to an interesting conversation on Twitter Tuesday spurred by Christian Megliola, SVP at Regan Communications in Boston. The conversation discussed what the PGA Tour needs to do to prepare for the end of the Tiger era, because one thing we’ve learned over the last 8 months is that the PGA Tour is Tiger Woods. Ratings for the tour plunge when Tiger is not involved.

It seems odd to discuss the end of the Tiger era, he’s still just 33 years-old. Jack Nicklaus won The Masters at 46, and there’s no question that Tiger has the strength and conditioning to have that type of longevity. But, the PGA has a real problem on their hands with the public’s viewing tendencies when Tiger isn’t involved, and they need to begin preparing for that now.

I’m not suggesting that they should begin downplaying Tiger, of course you need to capitalize on his greatness and popularity while it’s there, but the PGA should be using tournaments that Tiger skips as a testing ground for post-Tiger plans. As Megliola said in a tweet,”They need to begin thinking about it at the highest levels.”

The PGA does not want to fall into the same “next Jordan” trap that hurt the NBA after Michael Jordan retired. We had Grant Hill, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant even Harold Miner, and marketing efforts went to compare each to Jordan. Only Kobe came close, but the “next Jordan” talk nearly crushed the league as no player could live up to that scrutiny.

The NBA finally came out of the haze when new, original, stars came on the scene, with original rivalries, not copycats. You can’t redo Magic-Bird, you can’t redo MJ. The NBA began to focus marketing on LeBron, Wade, Melo, D-12 (I won’t call him Superman a) he gave the nickname to himself and b) he has to win something to get that name, but I digress) and CP3. Young stars with marketable personalities, but efforts weren’t used to turn them into Jordan clones.

The PGA needs to begin cultivating new fresh players while they have the wiggle room. They can’t afford to wait until Tiger is gone, and not every player has the personality or composure of MJ, Tiger or LeBron, so it could take time.

The media will be looking for the next Tiger, but the PGA will need to resist. They need to look for new, marketable personalities. Test new and different stars. Not Tiger copycats. Maybe it’s a rivalry, that’s worked for the NBA and NHL (Crosby and Ovechkin). But, falling into the “next Tiger” trap could crush the PGA as we know it.

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 31, 2009 at 10:40 pm

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