ORLANDO, December 14- A major sponsor of Tiger Woods announced Sunday it was ending its six-year ties with the golf star, saying he "is no longer the right representative" after a blistering sex scandal.The billionaire athlete and married father of two, once a ubiquitous figure with priceless advertising value, has seen his squeaky clean image decimated by a string of affairs with a porn star, cocktail waitress and other women, raising concerns of sponsors pulling away from golf.
"For the past six years, Accenture and Tiger Woods have had a very successful sponsorship arrangement and his achievements on the golf course have been a powerful metaphor for business success in Accenture’s advertising," the Dublin-based technology, management and outsourcing consultancy said in a statement.
"However, given the circumstances of the last two weeks, after careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising. Accenture said that it wishes only the best for Tiger Woods and his family."
The statement marked the end of a relationship with the 14-time major champion at the center of ad campaigns that once included slogans like "Go on. Be a Tiger," or "We know what it takes to be a Tiger."
The company’s website once read: "Famous not only for his success on the golf course, Tiger Woods is equally renowned for his work ethic, focus and commitment to continual improvement."
Accenture, which had earlier removed an image of Woods from its website, said it would "immediately" transition to a new advertising campaign, with plans for a "major" effort to launch next year.
But it was only the latest in a series of companies to reevaluate their sponsorship of the world’s top golfer ever since Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade SUV into a tree and fire hydrant just outside his home in bizarre circumstances on November 27, unleashing a media firestorm.
Razormaker Gillette announced Saturday it would phase him out of advertisements while he takes a break from golf, calling it a supportive move.
"As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs," the company said, said without announcing a timetable for the resumption of use of the golfer’s image.
AT&T, which backs the US PGA Tour operated by the golfer’s foundation, said in a statement, "We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him."
However, Nike, Woods’s largest corporate partner with a deal estimated at 40 million dollars a year, stood by him. "He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era," Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said.
EA Sports, the video game company, also released a statement declaring the relationship "unchanged."
Regardless, none of the companies indicated they were permanently ending their relationship with Woods, and scaling back their associations may largely be a temporary effort to avoid any fallback on how customers view their brands.
Woods, the first athlete to earn one billion dollars from endorsements and prize money, has drawn extra attention and sponsor support to golf.