(Tiger Woods poll updated with golfer's comments from April 5 press conference.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Tiger Woods is returning to professional golf at the Masters -- but to what effect on his remaining corporate sponsors, such as Nike (NKE) - Get Report and Electronic Arts' (ERTS) EA Sports?
Depends on who you ask.
Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey says he is awaiting a "sensational" return to golf by Tiger Woods. Hickey believes that Tiger's return will generate a "tidal wave of interest" that will probably bode well for EA Sports. "Tiger has proven fallible, like the majority of awake humans; and his comeback to golf and life could prove to be one of the greatest sports spectacles in history," he said.
"EA Sports has exhibited great loyalty to one of the greatest sports figures in history," Hickey says, wagering that EA Sports' bet that will pay off with high returns in the future. "Americans persist on the emotional swings between fragility and greatness."
Meanwhile, EA Sports itself stated Thursday, "we're looking forward to seeing Tiger back on the golf course." Nike responded to his return with a similar canned sentiment: "We look forward to Tiger's return to the Masters and seeing him back on the course."
But not everyone thinks Tiger's return will be a milestone event for his corporate sponsors. In fact, "in the grand scheme of things," Tiger's action on and off the golf course "have very little bearing on Electronic Arts," given that Tiger games comprises less than 5% of Electronic Arts' total sales and they have never risen to the top three or four EA Sports games, Pacific Crest Securities analyst Evan Wilson said.
"The impact of the World Cup is light years more important," Wilson said. The 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament begins in June, and EA Sports plans on releasing its 2010 FIFA World Cup game in April.
Similar notions were echoed by Nike analyst Sara Hasan, who thinks that Tiger's return to golf will be a positive, as it would allow the focus on Tiger to gravitate back to his performance as an athlete rather than his "personality...that's a positive."
Still, although Tiger has undoubtedly brought significant visibility to golf, Hasan points out that his direct impact on Nike as a company is more difficult to gauge, given that golf products are still a small component of Nike's overall business. Golf products comprised only about 3% of Nike sales in fiscal year 2009.
What Hasan is more concerned with is how bad economic conditions could affect golf sales at Nike; after all, golf can be an expensive hobby that consumers shun in harder times. From this perspective, Tiger's influence on Nike's golf sales seems minor in the grander scheme of things.
On April 5, Tiger held
his first press conference
since the fateful car crash outside his home in Orlando, Florida, shortly after Thanksgiving. Tiger did issue a televised apology on Feb. 19 for the apparently numerous extramarital affairs he engaged in over the past several years; that apology, however, was not open to questions from reporters. On Monday, reporters finally had a chance to assail Tiger with their questions, which some say will be good for Tiger -- allowing him to get the interrogation over with once and for all and move on with his life and his career.
During the press conference, which took place at the kickoff of the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, reporters asked Tiger questions ranging from his relationship with corporate sponsors to (arguably baseless) allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, which Tiger answered with ease. For example, when asked how he felt when he learned that corporate sponsors would be dropping him because of the scandal that arose from his bad behavior, Woods answered, "Do I understand why they dropped me? Of course. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I totally understand why they would do that."
Tiger even added, with conviction, that he would, going forward, re-establish his worthiness to corporate sponsors: "Hopefully, I can prove to the other companies going forward that I am a worthy investment, that I can help their company, help their company grow and represent them well," Tiger told reporters
So, what of the companies that Tiger's still associated with? Concerns about Tiger Wood's negative influence on his corporate sponsors' stock value seem to have waned in recent weeks, based on
canvassing of various industry analysts. But what do you think? Do you think the Tiger scandal has finally played itself out? Take our poll below, to learn the consensus of
, and don't hesitate to leave a comment -- as if anyone has hesitated to share an opinion about Tiger in the past four months.
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
>>Tiger Wants to Prove "Worthy" of Sponsors
>>CBS Stock Spikes On Tiger Woods News
>>CBS Stock Spikes On Tiger Woods News
>>Tiger Woods Returns
>> Tiger Woods' Sponsors Begin to Drop
>>Tiger Woods' Sponsors Jumping Ship
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