Tiger Woods, who was once one of the most marketable athletes in the world, has signed a new multiyear deal with Bridgestone Golf to exclusively play and promote its golf ball line.
As part of the deal, the former No. 1 golfer in the world will play with Bridgestone’s B330-S golf balls. Woods has been on the hunt for new equipment makers since August, when his longtime brand Nike unexpectedly announced it was ceasing production of golf equipment. He has not announced his choice of golf clubs.
“Tiger did extensive testing with the golf ball. He was very diligent and tested with a number of competitive golf balls. In the end, he felt the Bridgestone 330s fit his game the best,” his longtime agent Mark Steinberg told CNBC.
Bridgestone, one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, started leveraging its rubber science engineers to make golf balls in 1935. Today, it is the number three golf ball brand, according to industry research firm Golf Datatech.
Woods has spent the past 15 months recovering from multiple back surgeries. During that time, he says, he tested all of the balls on the market before selecting the Bridgestone B330-S.
“As of right now, I’m longer than I’ve ever been,” Woods said in a statement. “I’m about six yards longer.”
Woods said the ball is reacting to how he plays and he noted that many of his golf friends use Bridgestone balls.
FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker, Olympic bronze medalist Matt Kuchar, Masters winner Fred Couples, three-time major champion Nick Price are all Bridgestone Golf “ambassadors.”
As part of the agreement, the winner of 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour events will also be featured in digital, social, print and broadcast marketing globally for Bridgestone.
The global golf equipment market is expected to grow at a steady 2 percent per year, according to a market study released by Technavio.
Golf balls make up approximately 20 percent of the share of the global golf equipment market with about 200 million golf balls sold per year in the U.S. alone.
The total size of the golf ball market for on and off course specialty retailers is $420 million, according to Golf Datatech.
“Bridgestone already has a great reputation in golf and has gained market share over the past several years with their golf ball innovations and with their suite of athletes,” said Dick Sullivan, president and CEO of PGA Tour Superstore.
“Adding Tiger to their staff will only help Bridgestone gain further momentum,” he added.
Now that he’s signed with Bridgestone, the question is — does it matter and will the Georgia-based company see a bump in sales?
“Having Tiger on brand is not the same boost as five-10 years ago but definitely a boost,” said sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising.
“The fact that Nike exited the equipment business when he built their brand, means that he doesn’t have the same buying clout as he used to,” he added.
However, Dorfman said he expects that Woods will add legitimacy to the company as a golf brand — in an industry where Titleist and Callaway are the top golf ball vendors.
While Dorfman has no direct knowledge of the deal, he expects it’s worth about $1 million to 2 million per year, about two or three times less than what Woods demanded in his prime.
And if Woods sees success, it will be huge for the company.
“I still remember that famous shot at the Masters where Tiger’s ball rolled slowly into the cup and all you could see was the Nike logo,” said Dorfman. “If he can compete again and in the final groups on Sunday, it will be a huge boost for Bridgestone.”