The reported divorce settlement between Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren is rumored to be approximately $750,000,000 (yes, that’s million).  It’s a record settlement that far exceeds of the settlement between Michael Jordan and his ex-wife.  The amount is staggering.

It has been a rough road since Thanksgiving 2009 when he drove his SUV into a tree outside his compound.  A road highlighted by a slew of infidelities, a drug addiction, and a stint in rehab.  Its been a monumental fall from grace.

During discussions about Tiger Woods, I have often heard: how is any of this our business?  People are offended by TMZ.com snooping around the private lives of high profile stars like Tiger Woods.  They transpose themselves onto Tiger Woods and are terrified of the notion of their own dirty laundry being national breaking news and the lead story on the nightly entertainment shows.  I believe, however, that, in the case of Tiger Woods and the like, it is our business because, after all… it is business.

There is a dramatic difference between Tiger Woods and you.  Tiger Woods was reciving hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements.  He was cashing in on his image… or, the faux image he fabricated.  Companies paid Tiger Woods outrageous sums of money to simply tell people that he used their product.  The list includes Gillete, Nike, and TagHauer.  These companies believed that we would buy their products because Tiger Woods, the man with laser-like focus who only had time for winning championships, funding his charities and spending time with his family, which was essentially the model for the 21st century interracial family, used the same products.  Whether that type of advertising actually works is an issue beyond this posting.  Nonetheless, the fact that Tiger Woods, and other stars, cash in that notion is central to this posting.  In my opinion, when an athlete signs an endorsement deal and cashes in on their image, they are essentially waiving any right to keep private most, if not all, aspects of their lives.  These athletes are transforming their image into a business asset.  Their image suddenly has a marketable value.  If you put yourself out there as Superman, you better be Superman.  Tiger Woods learned that lesson the hard way.  He put his private life into play.

This posting, however, is not about bashing Tiger Woods.  My point is not limited to him.  It’s about all athletes who sign an endorsement deal for mega-bucks.  For example, the same is true of Michael Phelps.  I was a swimmer and water polo player in high school.  As a result, his achievements at the Olympics two years ago excited me more than the average fan because I could better relate to the experience.  Being completely honest, the 4x100m relay and his 100m butterfly are probably the two most incredible moments in sports that I have ever witnessed.  They were my Miracle on Ice.  I was nearly in tears after the relay and in utter shock after the fly.  Nevertheless, he’s not immune from my point.  After the Olympics, he cashed in big-time on his success and his image.  His endorsements were in the hundred millions as well.  He was the wholesome, small-town, “ah shucks” guy who was also the greatest Olympian in history.  The famous photos of his bong hits were fair game to contradict his image once he cashed in on it.

The solution?  Easy.  Remain private.  Focus on maximizing your revenue on the field.  There are plenty of stars who get this concept and remain “private people.”  They avoid the paparazzi and don’t promote some image.  They do their job and they go home to live their lives.   If Tiger Woods wanted to live a wild, self-indulgent lifestyle — hey, thats his right.  Its his life.  He wanted the best of both worlds, however, and thought he could cash in on a public image and live a contradictory private life.  Its one or the other in my opinion.  He made a business decision to promote an image he couldn’t sustain in order to make himself money and try to convince you and me to spend our hard-earned wages on his products.  Thus, his business instantly became our business whether we like it or not.

Advertisements