Thursday, December 10, 2009

Social Media, Poor Choices, and Bad Advice Is Destroying Tiger's Ability to Recover From TigerSexgate

What is Tiger's legal, social media, and public relations team doing to stop the bleeding? So far, Team Tiger's strategy has been to duck and cover, and hope for the cavalry to arrive sooner rather than later. As General Custer found out, the cavalry doesn't always come in time to save you. The entire media and social media world, including the New York Post, US Magazine, and The Today Show, are circling and Tiger's response has been to go into seclusion and avoid everyone and everything in the hopes that TigerSexgate will somehow go away.

As I stated in a previous post, Tiger must be proactive during this time of crisis. Unfortunately, Team Tiger is in paralysis and unable to create an effective crisis response. On the home page of http://www.tigerwoods.com/ it should state in big bold letters "I am Sorry" and Tiger should personally state in a video posted on his website that he is sorry for the all of the pain he has caused his wife and family, he is sorry to his fans, the public, and to his sponsors and that he will work to regain their trust. The video should be released to every social media website to get his message across. As of this writing, Tiger and his website are trying to ignore TigerSexgate and this strategy is failing.

Is Team Tiger taking direction from Tiger, his personal attorney(s), his agent(s), or his publicist(s)? Whomever is the general in this fiasco must be replaced immediately. If Tiger is making the decision to stay out of the spotlight he needs to summon the courage to face the public and come clean. Leaders and role models address criticism head on and personally take full responsibility for their actions. So far, Tiger has failed to live up to the image that Team Tiger has created. This situation reminds me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the curtain on the Wizard is pulled back and there is nothing there but a man, not a "Wizard."

It has been approximately two weeks, and I am very surprised that his sponsors that include: Accenture, Electronic Arts, General Motors, Gillette, Pepsi, Proctor and Gamble, and Tag Heuer have been generally quiet since the story broke. If I was the legal counsel for any of Tiger's sponsors I would be reviewing the endorsement contract that my company has with Tiger and analyzing the "morals clause" that I assume was inserted in each contract. A contract morals clause provides a company the ability to terminate the services of an endorser if the endorser engages in activity that is inconsistent with a company's public image.

If the morals clause is properly drafted, I would advise my client to drastically redraft the endorsement contract or sever all ties with Tiger since my client is paying for an image that no longer exists. Companies want to be associated with people who are at the top of their profession, have the right personal image, and who know how to react when either their professional or personal image is under attack since an attack on the endorser is also an attack on the company's brand. Tiger no longer has the image companies desire and his ostrich like "head in the sand" reaction to this crisis demonstrates he is out of touch with the customers whom he is paid to attract.

When dealing with high profile clients, an attorney should ask his client(s) about any "possible future challenges" that may be on the client's radar. Sometimes the client will not be forthcoming, other times the client may provide this information. Due to the nature of the attorney-client relationship an attorney should make the client feel comfortable enough to provide this type of information so an attorney may be proactive in preventing a public relations nightmare that may have corporate and legal consequences.

Immediately after reports of Tiger's multiple infidelities become public, Tiger's legal team should have sprung into action. Tiger's legal team should have had the contact information for each woman with whom he had an inappropriate relationship with so they could negotiate a settlement to keep the relationship a private matter. In particular, Tiger should have worked with his legal team to list in order the women who have the most "evidence" of a relationship to the least amount of evidence. The women with whom he "sexted" with, left voice mails with, emailed with, or left any other possible evidence (Think Monica Lewinsky's Blue Dress), should have been targeted first. These women should have been offered appropriate settlements with iron clad confidentiality agreements.

Tiger should have followed Michael Jackson's lead and spent the money necessary to keep his image intact. Michael Jackson's image took a hit but he was never convicted of child molestation. Michael Jackson's settlement with his accuser(s) allowed him to keep his freedom and to go back to making music. Unfortunately, he tragically passed away earlier this past year before he was able to make another comeback.

Tiger's "transgressions" will not put him jail. However, it may forever change his relationship with his wife and family, eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing opportunities, destroy his public persona forever, and may affect his ability to focus on playing golf. I thought Tiger was a lock to easily surpass Jack Nicklaus on the all-time major wins list. After watching his response to TigerSexgate, I believe that Tiger will be lucky to win one more major. I hope he proves me wrong, but at this point in time I doubt it.

Copyright 2009 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.