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Sports : Gillette ends endorsement deal with Tiger Woods

Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand is ending its endorsement deal with golfer Tiger Woods as of Dec. 31.

The men's grooming company will not renew its sponsorship deal with Woods as part of a plan to phase out its Gillette Champions marketing campaign in the first quarter of 2011, said Gillette spokesman Michael Norton Thursday.

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Under the strategy, Gillette is cutting ties with Woods, soccer players Thierry Henry, Kaka, Rafa Marquez and Lionel Messi and other athletic endorsers around the world, said Norton. However, it's keeping other athletes who served as Gillette champions in global or local marketing efforts. They include: shortstop Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees; tennis star Roger Federer and NHL star Alexander Ovechkin.
In an e-mail to USA TODAY, Woods' agent, Mark Steinbergof IMG Worldwide, said: "The contract between Tiger and Gillette expires at the end of this year. Gillette is ending their 'Champions' campaign. That is the reason for not continuing."
However, eight other sponsors have stood by Woods: Nike Golf; Upper Deck; EA Sports; Tag Heuer; NetJets; TLC Laser Eye Centers; Golf Digest and the Tiger Woods Dubai Resort. Golf Digest has also begun publishing Woods' instructional columns again.
Woods lost his world No. 1 ranking this year and was divorced by wife Elin Nordegren.
Even with the loss of Gillette and three other sponsors, Woods makes far more money off the course than he does between the ropes. He lost about $20 million in endorsement money to finish at $70 million this year, according to Sports Illustrated's 2010 "Fortunate 50" list of America's highest earning athletes. However, Woods still ranked No. 1 on the list with combined earnings of $90.5 million from tournament winnings, endorsements and appearances fees. That put him well ahead of runner-up Phil Mickelson, who earned $61.7 million. In 2009, that figure was $99.7 million for Woods.
If Woods doesn't lose any more sponsors and doesn't sign any new deals, he'll probably pull down $55 million to $60 million in endorsements this year, estimated CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell Thursday.
As Woods turns his life and golf game around, some of the sponsors who patiently stood by him during his leave of absence from golf and subsequent professional and personal struggles may be ready to jump on board what could become one of the great comeback stories in sports.
Beth Gast of Nike Golf recently said the Swoosh plans to start using Woods again soon its ads. Upper Deck might have some new marketing plans in the works with Woods for the 2011 Masters, said spokesman Terry Melia.
The comeback of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick from a prison term for dogfighting shows Americans love to give people second chances. A couple of victories, especially in one of the major tournaments, would improve his image in a hurry.
"There's no way you can sit here and write off Tiger Woods and say he'll never be back again," CBS lead golf announcer Jim Nantz said recently. Nantz predicted: "When 2011 rolls around, I think Tiger will be ready to come back and put 2010 completely behind him. I'm not selling him short, ever, when it comes to Tiger Woods and what he's going to accomplish in golf."
Mike Paul, the Reputation Doctor, at MGP & Associates PR, said: "It's a great lesson for every athlete to learn from. Be careful if you tarnish your reputation because it will be very difficult to climb back out." Source USA TODAY

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