For years, Tiger Woods was the epitome of the perfect brand image in golf. Tiger was perfect for marketing as he had a unique name, he’s an exotic mix (for golf) of Asian and African American and he’s articulate. His tournaments were the most watched. He was a quiet family man, and he won, a lot.
Then, in 2009 that perfect image came crashing down when it was revealed Tiger was a serial cheater on his wife. Brands that had supported Tiger because of his family man image soon abandoned him to the tune of millions of dollars. While Tiger’s reputation as a golf player remains intact, it is questionable whether he can ever get his reputation as a trustworthy individual back. The public has forgiven corporations for past misdeeds before, but an individual has a much harder time moving past a scandal.
This leads to the question, will another golfer take Tiger’s place as the biggest brand star or is Tiger still too big to overtake? With his slew of media attention over his recent PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club as well as his rising prominence in social media, Jason Dufner could give Tiger a run for his money.
Winning a major is considered one of the most significant milestones in the golfing world, but after defeating Jim Furyk with a two-stroke victory to win $1.5 million in prize money, Dufner celebrated his win by simply raising his two hands. Showing so little emotion is typical for Dufner, who seems to have the same expression on his face whether he’s hitting birdies or bogies. If other major golf names — Tiger, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson — are all known for their personalities, how has the stoic Dufner drawn any attention? It’s because of Dufner’s “everyday man” personality off of the golf course.
Dufner went viral when a meme of him slouched on the floor at an Elementary school in Dallas was released. The picture was far from flattering, but Dufner was able to find the humor in it. He tweeted, “What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing.” That slouched position soon became an Internet sensation with other golfers, including Dufner himself, posting pictures of themselves “dufnering” in random locations.
Dufner’s ability to handle the social media scene isn’t just limited to his sense of humor. He also knows how to keep it real. Followers feel like they can really get to know Dufner and see him as a real person, not just an incredible golfer, when he makes posts like this on his Facebook page.
While some may argue that Dufner will never live up to Tiger Wood’s legacy to score the big sponsors like Nike, Dufner has plenty of his own sponsors, such as Greenway Medical and Comcast, that appreciate Dufner’s image as an everyday man rather than an untouchable celebrity. Dufner may prove the critics wrong and shake the golf (and even fantasy golf - http://www.golfzing.com/fantasy-golf) world with more phenomenal performances, but in the end, that may not be what causes his brand to surpass Woods’.
Woods is an idol. Fans will never be able to play golf like he does, and they respect him for his abilities, but he is not relatable. The golfer that has a potbelly and gets caught in awkward situations is.
Phil Oscarson is an avid golfer and golf analyst who writes for BleacherReport and Golfzing.com. He’s still trying to convince his wife to let him install a putting green in his backyard.