Why Accenture's Decision To Drop Tiger Woods Is a Bad One

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2009

MARANA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Tiger Woods poses with William Green of Accenture and the Walter Hagen Cup after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at The Gallery at Dove Mountain on February 24, 2008 in Marana, Arizona.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Here in America, when it comes to our athletes and celebrities, we love three things more than anything else.

1) We love to create heroes.

2) We love to see our heroes fall from grace.

3) We love a good comeback story.

Anyone who has ever taken an introductory business class will know that the long-term success of any business relies heavily in its leader’s ability to see the big picture.

Making intelligent decisions in the business world requires a level head.  Getting caught up in the moment or trying to make a quick buck will often land you in a disastrous situation.  Just ask Freddie Mac, Frannie May, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Sterns.  

For that reason, it’s extremely surprising that Accenture’s “experts” have allowed themselves to get caught up in the current “Tigermania,” and have decided to end their sponsorship deal with Tiger Woods.

In case you didn’t know, Accenture is a consulting company, who’s core business is to help others companies make better decisions.

Accenture’s website is infested with words such as “Durable”, “Sustainability”, “Long-Term”, “Relationships,” and many other terms targeted toward making potential clients believe that Accenture can help them make decisions to improve their company's long-term success and profitability.

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“We help clients improve performance for long-term success and competitive superiority that incorporates sustainability as both a driver and an outcome,” is a sentence that appears on the front of Accenture’s “Sustainability Consulting” web page.

Some of their advertising slogans during the "Tiger Woods years" were, "Why high performers shine even when the sun doesn't," and "At a time when it's tougher than ever to be a Tiger, it's important to know what it takes."

How ironic.

What will their new slogan be?

“At a time when it’s tougher than ever to be a Tiger…run ?”

Needless to say, Tiger Woods is in the middle of the biggest scandal to hit the sports world since, well, the last one.  Was it Alex Rodriguez, Ray Lewis, Andy Petite, Kobe Bryant, Marv Albert, or another?

It’s so difficult these days to remember which “huge” scandal was the last one the general public has moved on from and all but forgotten about.

No one has any idea how long Tiger’s “indefinite” leave will last.

Maybe he’ll show up at the 2010 Masters.

Maybe the 2010 US Open.

Maybe he won’t be seen until the 2011 Masters.

Who knows.

But one thing is fairly certain.  Woods will return at some point, and when he does, unless Rickie Fowler has won three consecutive majors and established himself as the next Tiger Woods, there’s little reason to believe that Woods will not continue to dominate the PGA Tour for many years to come.

This is the same guy who didn’t touch a golf club for six months while recovering from reconstructive ACL surgery and came out and won six events in 2009.

For companies like Gatorade or Gillette, dropping Tiger Woods isn’t the biggest deal in the world.

After all, how many people really bought Gillette razors or shaving cream because they thought Tiger Woods used the same brand?

A consulting company, on the other hand, is hired by top-level executives to “consult” on various aspects of business such as risk management, crisis management, strategy, sustainability, and relationships.

Let’s look at one scenario Accenture may face as a result of their decision to drop Woods’s sponsorship deal.

Tiger Woods makes his much anticipated return at the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach.  Every newspaper, television station, gossip magazine, and website in the world is there to cover Woods’s every move.

Woods looks like a new person.

He looks happy for the first time in years.

He is more appreciative of the fans and he’s more accommodating to the media.

Woods goes out and completely decimates the field at Pebble Beach, and after sinking his final putt on the 72nd hole to win by eight-strokes, his daughter comes running out onto the green to give him a hug, followed immediately by his wife, Elin who is holding their son, Charlie, in her arms.

Throughout the course of the week, those fans who were skeptical at first have now jumped aboard the comeback bandwagon.

After all, everyone loves a good comeback story. 

As Woods celebrates with his family on the 18th green, the noise from the crowd reaches a deafening pitch while Woods begins to walk off the green with tears in his eyes.

It would be the biggest comeback story in golf since Ben Hogan overcame his run-in with the Greyhound Bus to win the 1950 US Open. 

Now, imagine this entire series of events taking place while Tiger is wearing a very large “IBM Business Consulting” logo on his sleeve.

Maybe Accenture attempted to jump back aboard "Brand Tiger" when it heard that he was making a comeback and was hitting the ball as well as ever.  But, the company quickly realized that Woods has an ego the size of Mt. Everest, can hold a decade-long grudge, and has more than enough “go to hell money.”

In the months proceeding Accenture’s impulsive decision to drop Woods, IBM had moved in and handed Woods a multi-million dollar deal.

And now IBM is ready to cash in on that deal.

Woods would more than likely appear in a series of national television commercials saying, “While others failed to properly manage their risk and were quick to make rash decisions in my time of need, IBM Business Consulting demonstrated its foresight and ability to see the big picture.  I’m happy to be associated with IBM, and if you want a company to help you through the tough times, there’s no better choice than IBM.”

How is Accenture—a consulting company that is hired by many to help others make decisions—possibly going to counter this?

Would you hire a consulting company who made an irrational, spur-of-the-moment decision on the worldwide stage, and that decision wound up completely back-firing on them?

Now, there is also the possibility that Woods may never be the same player again, in which case Accenture’s decision to cut ties with Woods will have been a smart one.

But after all we’ve seen from Woods over the years, are Accenture’s "risk management" experts really banking their company’s reputation on this guy not making some kind of a dramatic comeback?

Are they really banking their company's reputation on Woods not overcoming this embarrassing scandal in the same way that every other public figure in recent memory has been able to do?

Would you want these guys managing your company’s risk?

Me neither.

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