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Tiger Woods of the United States during the final round of the PNC Championship at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on December 17, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
New York CNN –
Tiger Woods has parted ways with Nike after a 27-year association with the world's largest sportswear company, the golf legend announced Monday.
“Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate enough to begin a partnership with one of the most recognized brands in the world,” said Woods wrote on X.
Woods continued: “There will certainly be another chapter.”
Nike said goodbye to Woods on Instagram, saying, “It was a hell of a round, Tiger.”
“Tiger, you challenged your competition, stereotypes, conventions and the old school mindset. They challenged the entire golf institution. You challenged us. And above all, you yourself. And we are grateful for this challenge,” the company added.
The CEO of popular Swiss sneaker brand ON Running, Marc Maurer, addressed speculation following Woods' departure from Nike, telling an audience at the ICR retail conference on Monday that Woods is not signing a contract with the brand.
“We hope he finds a great new partner. “It won’t be us,” Maurer told the gathering.
Nike has been almost synonymous with Woods since he first turned pro in 1996 until his Masters victory in 2019, his first major tournament win in 11 years. Although a sex scandal turned sponsors like Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture away from Woods and cost him an estimated $20 million, his relationship with Nike remained intact.
In 1996, Nike launched the iconic “Hello World” commercial, based on Woods' professional debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open, where he began the press conference with “I guess hello world, huh?”
Woods signed a five-year endorsement deal with Nike in 2000. The estimated value was $85 million, making it the richest endorsement deal in sports history at the time.
At one point, it was reported that Woods' Nike deal was worth up to $20 million per year, CNN previously reported. Woods signed multiple contracts with the company over nearly three decades, including a 10-year deal in 2013 worth about $200 million. But in 2019, his deal was worth about half that amount per year, Bob Dorfman, an endorsement expert and executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising, said at the time.
According to Q Score polls, Woods is still one of the most well-known athletes in the country and is three times better known to the general public than the average athlete.
And although positive opinions of him among the general public have declined compared to his heyday, sports fans still have a more positive view of him than the average athlete, according to Q-Score polls.
“Why is Nike parting ways with Woods, a long-time brand ambassador for the brand? It could be that Nike wants to get out of the golf business,” said Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group, a sports and entertainment company that evaluates sponsorships and advertising campaigns.
“Nike used to sell golf balls and clubs with its logo, and that was over. It still sells golf apparel and shoes,” he said.
Smallwood said he would be surprised if the split was due to concerns that Woods was nearing the end of his career.
“Woods is synonymous with golf. Nike has stuck with him through his life trials and his comebacks,” he said. “Woods can play as long as he wants in the PGA and then the Senior PGA. Look how long Nike held on to Michael Jordan. He hasn’t played in over 20 years.”
In August, Woods was named the sixth player director on the powerful PGA Tour Policy Board, giving players a seat advantage on the panel following the controversial merger between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Woods reportedly turned down nearly $1 billion to participate in LIV Golf.
Joshua Butler, founder of online golf apparel brand J. Butler Golf, called Woods a smart businessman “who understands that the golf landscape is changing.”
“Nike has withdrawn from golf products. “Tiger has a great chance of ending up somewhere else,” Butler said. “Golf apparel companies are coming into the market with different options, better options and different prices.”
“It's not that Nike did anything wrong, it's not that Tiger Woods wasn't necessarily happy with his relationship with Nike over the last 27 years, but this is a unique opportunity to reach out to a younger audience “There are no rich people who want to play the game,” he said. “Tiger understands the importance of what he means to both the golf industry and people of color. So I think this is a monumental shift right now.”
— CNN's Chris Isidore, Robert Ilich and Wayne Sterling contributed to this story