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Corporate Social Responsibility, Advertising and Tiger Woods


December 14, 2009

Sponsors are abandoning Tiger Woods. Sports pages, gossip magazines and the blogosphere are full of Tiger stories. Most observers seem to agree that personal morality should play a part in corporate advertising. Few seem to question whether it was appropriate for companies to pay Mr. Woods for advertising in the first place. This exposes a lack of thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with many companies. Do these companies consider CSR when marketing?

Profit, People and Planet

Companies should consider profit, people and planet in marketing. There are situations when choosing a sports celebrity to promote company products and services is justified. The celebrity can attract new customers to help increase company profits. The celebrity can enhance the lives of the disadvantaged. And, the celebrity can help to promote environmental sustainability. I don’t know whether the advertisers for golf and tennis professionals consider the “Triple P” approach. CSR in marketing should ask these questions:

Does the sport directly attract customers?

There is a clear linkage between a sports and the manufacturer of sports equipment. Is it responsible to sponsor a yachting event if the company is not involved in boating? Is there a linkage between golf and automobile manufacturing?

Does the sport positively affect the disadvantaged?

One can make the case that golf and tennis are pass-times of the elite, despite programs to encourage wider adoption. It’s clear that Right to Play provides a value to children in developing countries. That organization does not appear to be handing out golf equipment.

Does the sport positively affect the planet?

Golf courses were originally created in coastal areas where the land had little value. Farmland has been converted to golf use. Desert courses require significant use of water and other resources to operate. That’s why there has been a movement to more sustainable golf courses.  This appears to be an exception in the golfing community. The Tiger Woods Foundation does promote “sustainable programs emphasizing education, youth development, leadership and financial literacy.”  It’s interesting that environmental sustainability is not described on the Tiger Woods main website or the Tiger Woods Design website.

CSR as Secondary?

Tiger Woods sponsors and the Tiger Woods group of companies have CSR programs. These programs appear to be silos. Of secondary importance. Neither sponsor nor celebrity seem to be considering social responsibility as operational imperative.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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