When Will Phil Mickelson's Sponsors Begin Jumping Ship?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

Phil Mickelson responds to a question during a news conference following the third round of the Memorial golf tournament Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

One would have to assume that Phil Mickelson’s financial services sponsors cringed at the sight of one of their spokesmen standing in front of the media and addressing questions related to an insider trading investigation while wearing a KPMG hat and Barclays logo on his shirt.

None of Mickelson’s sponsors, which also include Exxon Mobil and Amgen, have made an official statement with regards to the allegations that Mickelson was involved in insider trading back in 2011 and 2012, which is now being investigated by the FBI and SEC.

And according to news outlets such as Reuters, Barclays and Exxon Mobil declined to comment on the insider trading probe when contacted, while the rest of Mickelson’s sponsors could not be reached for comment.

This is not a good sign for Mickelson, as it would suggest that these sponsors, which account for the vast majority of his yearly income, are currently in crisis mode and are attempting to figure out how to proceed with a prominent spokesman that is now being investigated for insider trading.

Several of Tiger Woods’ sponsors jumped ship in the weeks and months following his very public sex scandal back in 2009.

Sponsors such as Accenture and AT&T even decided to drop Woods based on nothing more than allegations.

In mid-December 2009, which was just two weeks after Woods’ alleged affairs began to surface, Accenture released a statement saying "After careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising."

AT&T then decided dropped Woods in late December 2009, releasing a statement which simply said “We are ending our sponsorship agreement with Tiger Woods and wish him well in the future.”

Based on the way sponsors quickly scattered from the 14-time major champion at the first sign of any activity they felt might damage their brand, one would have to believe that Mickelson is very much in danger of losing several big-time sponsorship deals, particularly with brands such as KPMG and Barclays.

When comparing Woods’ situation back in 2009 to Mickelson’s current situation, we must also consider that Woods’ transgressions, as terrible as they were for his family, were not a crime. Mickelson is being investigated by the FBI and SEC for the crime of insider trading.

KPMG is primarily an accounting firm, which also offers tax and financial advisory services.

Barclays is of course one of the world’s largest banks which offers both retail and commercial banking services as well as investment management services.

Needless to see, these financial service giants would want to stay as far away as possible from any discussion on insider trading.

And you can be assured that the last thing companies such as KPMG and Barclays would want from a spokesman is to see him standing in front of the media on national television addressing questions related to an insider trading probe while clearly displaying their company logos.

KPMG and Barclays deciding to keep Mickelson on their payroll as a spokesman moving forward would be the equivalent of a marriage counselor deciding to keep their logo on Woods’ hat following very public allegations of his infidelity.

In the court of law, one is innocent until proven guilty; and let’s be clear on this matter, Mickelson has not been officially charged with any crime.

However, that is not the way things work in the world of sports sponsorships. Any activity that can in any way negatively impact a brand, even if that activity is simply alleged, is typically more than enough for a company to sever a sponsorship deal.

And based on the predicament Mickelson now finds himself in, as well as the way we have seen large companies react to scandals in the past, one would have to assume that the days of Mickelson walking around with a KPMG logo on his hat and a Barclays logo on his shirt are numbered.