The marketing and media people at Paddypower.com knew nothing of the $75m deal it wants to broker with the world’s most famous athlete. That was two hours after the story first appeared on Golfweek.com and it took a call to call Paddy Power himself to confirm that the company had, in fact, made Tiger Woods a massive offer.
Fair play then to US reporter Alexi Miceli, who was the first to hear from Power about what could be the biggest sports sponsorship coup ever pulled off by an Irish company. If only it were likely to happen.
So here’s what Paddy told Alex.
“We’re in negotiations to sponsor Tiger. It’s still in the early stage to be honest with you but if it all comes off, it will be the biggest kind of sponsorship deal we have ever done by quite a way.”
Blue chip sponsors like Accenture and AT&T have dumped Woods and the world No 1’s approval ratings is now so low that Osama Bin Laden would probably be a better product spokesman than the world’s No 1 golfer.
Paddypower.com reckon that the time is ripe to jump in with an offer that not even Woods and his agents IMG can refuse - $5m a year for 5 years to use his image in marketing and advertising campaigns. The rest of the money is bonus related.
The problem is the Woods’ agent at IMG, Mark Steinberg, says they are not open for business right now.
“We are not involved in any discussions to add to his sponsorship portfolio at this time,” Steinberg wrote in an email to Golfweek.
Woods’ image is as shattered as his knee was at Torrey Pines in the 2008 US Open. He didn’t play for six months after than, then came back last year
What’s sure, according to industry watches, is that Woods’ IMG handlers need that cash flow and right now there is no cash coming in to pay his army of managers, lawyers and assorted PR people.
Paddypower.com reckon they have a foot in the door, despite the fact that they face the hurdle of PGA Tour regulations that prevent players from endorsing betting sites or casinos.
When the US Ryder Cup team visited The K Club for a bonding exercise in 2006, all mention of the poker games organised by Chris DiMarco on the flight to Ireland were judiciously edited out of wire stories on the PGA’s website.
Gambling is frowned upon by the PGA and the PGA Tour but that doesn’t mean that the players aren’t at it constantly. And let’s not get started on the caddies.
Woods was a regular in Las Vegas and Phil Mickelson landed himself in hot water a few times. Rumour was rife a few years ago that he signed for Callaway in return the equipment company wiping out his massive gamgling debts.
Phil just can’t help it. He’d bet on two flies walking up a wall. Or Woods taking on Jim Furyk, for those who remember the 2001 NEC Invitational at Firestone.
Mickelson picked up a handy $500 when he bet that Furyk would hole a bunker shot for par during a seven-hole playoff.
The left hander was in the players lounge when he turned to the table next to him and offered 25-1 odds that Furyk would hole out from the sand.
Stewart Cink and David Toms both turned down the bet, but Mike Weir accepted the $20 wager and Furyk holed the shot to extend the playoff.
According to Section VI-B in the PGA Tour Player Handbook, “A player shall not have any financial interest, either direct or indirect, in the performance or the winnings of another player … whether through purse-splitting, prize money ‘insurance,’ financial assistance, bets or otherwise.”
The handbook says players are not to gamble or play cards on the premises where a PGA Tour event is being played.
Given his track record, Mickelson would probably enjoy having a bet on the outcome of the Woods-Paddypower.com flirtation.
His Furyk bet is just one of a few gems. For example, before the start of the 2000 NFL season, Lefty predicted on his website that the Baltimore Ravens would win the Super Bowl. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Mickelson collected $560,000 at odds of 28-1 on that one as the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 to win Superbowl XXXV. Not bad.
Woods loved Las Vegas and it wasn’t just the women. He went to escape and he did things because he could. Plain and simple. Taking up a bookie as a sponsor is not the clean cut image that the PGA Tour would want for its No1 product and it’s unlikely Woods would want to go down that road as he tries to repair his battered image.
It’s against PGA Tour regulations to have a US bookie or casino but Would could be Paddy Power’s man in Europe and the Far East, where the Chinese admire him more than ever thanks to his string of mistresses.
“We’re hopeful. We have gotten ourselves in there, and so I think we have a reasonable chance. I think there’s a lot more chance now than there might have been five years ago,” Paddy Power said. “It’s an opportunity at this stage when other sponsors seem to be ditching him, that there’s an opportunity there to step in.
“I still think he’s like a global brand, and he’s still somebody we would very much like to align ourselves to.”
Woods has been spotted practicing this week and there is speculation that he is preparing to return to the game at the Masters in April.
He has never been able to resist a gamble and the reason he can’t is part of what makes elite sportsmen the alpha dogs they have to be.
In an excellent 2006 piece entitled Gambling and the alpha dogs, columnist Bill Simmons explained it superbly.
He wrote: “That’s what alpha dogs do: They compete, they dominate, they don’t know when to quit. The surprise isn’t that there are dozens of gambling stories about Michael Jordan. The surprise would be if there weren’t any.”
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