There's a Russian proverb that advises, don't stop and watch the clock. Do what it does and keep going. But what do you do when the clock watches you? And then it stops.
That's what happened to Tiger Woods. Unable to stage a professional comeback, and reclaim a significant element of what made him a "human brand," luxury watchmaker, Tag Heuer, became the latest corporate sponsor to end its association with fallen golf superstar.
To be fair to Mr. Woods, it wasn't just his recent two-over performance at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational that caused the cancellation. Tag Heuer had previously stopped using the golfer's image in its U.S. advertising campaign and cut back on the former human brand's presence in their international campaigns after the revelations about Woods' serial adultery came to light two years ago.
It's tough to be a "human brand." It means that the actual human being represents 100% of the values sponsors find attractive. And unfortunately foibles and follies can't be raked smooth like a sand trap. The designation "human brand" represents the highest level of imbued meaning in the brand continuum. Usually contrition and closure can ease a human brand through the worst of he or she is facing. But some of the fundamental values still need to be intact. Like being able to hit a 400-yard drive, sink 35-foot putts, and occasionally rank in the top-5. Currently he's 30th in the world rankings. And now out another $10 million.
Tag Heuer became the 6th sponsor to drop Woods. The others included Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, Gillette, and Golf Digest.
Woods, of course, is not the first "human brand" to find himself in this position, and likely won't be the last. But here's some validated brand loyalty advice that might come in handy: You can't turn back the clock, but with the right strategy and engagement approach you can always wind it up again.