Tiger Woods’ announcement Monday that he was launching a new corporate brand that will be the umbrella for all of his current businesses, as well as the launch pad for all future business development, has us all wondering one thing: What exactly is this the beginning of? The story, detailed in an exclusive email interview with Fast Company magazine, is that Woods will be the chairman of a new startup called TGR. The corporate logo, which has been seen in Woods’ Twitter account for a few months, is a series of three triangles that, according to the Fast Company story “look like a tiger's stripes and also resemble a W.”
“There is so much excitement about the potential of TGR,” says Woods. “I'm excited to explore the possibilities in design, product development, hospitality, and possibly entertainment.”
While Woods has his charity, a restaurant and a course design business, it’s not clear what this new entity will bring, as it seems to be serving as both an umbrella and a startup. The future was described in a corporate-speaky way that hints at Woods’ eventually limited future playing career by Jeff Kempler, COO of Sub Rosa, the corporate strategy and branding firm that the Woods’ team brought in: “How can Tiger's global fame and recognizability both empower the new brand, but not create a dependency that would undo longevity?”
Woods’ current enterprises will now fall under the TGR moniker. They include his charity (the Tiger Woods Foundation), a golf course design firm, a live events business for his tournaments and his restaurant The Woods, which opened in Jupiter, Fla., last year. Woods told Fast Company, “The [concept] is already in demand in several cities.”
The Fast Company story also suggests that new TGR businesses are set to be announced “in the next few months.”
This move seems reminiscent of the kinds of moves other elite athletes have made in the past. Is Woods positioning himself like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, all of whose corporations make gobs of money without their namesakes being competitive golfers? Is Woods following the lead of other elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and LeBron James, who have become or are on the verge of becoming business icons beyond any sneaker deals they ever signed?
The Fast Company story even suggests Woods could pursue the same kind of future business like Paul Newman did with Newman’s Own. Could there be Tiger Woods movie theaters like Magic Johnson has? Would Tiger Woods invest in a pro team ownership deal like Michael Jordan has? Or would he pursue wine and turfgrass like Greg Norman has?
Of course, the more immediate question is what does this mean for Woods’ involvement with the golf business? Given that Nike, which Woods remains under contract to for endorsing its apparel and footwear, has dropped out of the golf equipment business, it’s also natural to wonder if one of those future TGR endeavors might be a golf equipment company. But if Woods is following the lead of his golf mentors, he’ll see that not going solo in the golf club business is the way to go. Both Palmer and Nicklaus were not successful in the club business, while Greg Norman made money as someone who endorsed golf clubs not as someone who was front and center, running a golf club company.
In fact, Norman’s greatest success in the golf club business came in the early 1990s. He negotiated an early deal for a $2 million investment with Cobra golf, then a small company founded by fellow Australian Tom Crow. Cobra was bought by Fortune Brands, then parent company of Titleist and FootJoy, for $700 million in 1995, a deal that Norman says netted him $44 million.
With the golf club business stagnant, it’s not clear how Woods could make a golf startup buck the current trends. That said, it’s also not clear how Woods could hope to negotiate a golf endorsement contract anywhere similar to the deals current top players like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are bringing in, let alone the last deal he signed with Nike in 2013. So starting his own golf club company could have a certain appeal.
Still, Woods hasn’t tipped his hand that he’s exploring other golf equipment deals yet. In footage from a charity outing at Pebble Beach last week, he was still clearly using Nike clubs. And while he’s still apparently a few months from competing again, that’s not enough time to start a new golf club company.
But the Nike deal is set to expire 2018, which gives Woods time to explore his own equipment brand. Of course, starting a new golf equipment company seems a tall order for any business mogul, let alone one who’s also trying to return to being a competitive force on the PGA Tour after three back surgeries.