Grouchy Golf Blog

Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 11:35 AM

Nike and Disney Sitting in a Tree...

The PGA Tour recently announced the completion of new television agreements for the 2007 through 2012 seasons. The big surprise was the omission of Disney-owned ABC and ESPN. While I think that it's a big blow to the PGA Tour and to golf viewers, it's an even bigger blow to Nike.

Why Nike? Well, it appears that Nike has been using Disney to trumpet Nike Golf. Visit the golf section at ESPN.com and you'll see instructional videos featuring Hank Haney, Tiger's coach and a member of Team Nike. Watch a major televised golf event on either ESPN or ABC and receive commentary from Nike pitchmen Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger. After watching Tiger "suck it back" with a wedge during a recent telecast, Azinger remarked:
Look at that, how do you back that up? It's amazing to watch. But you know, like I've said it plenty of times – he's got a golf ball that will spin like that, but it also goes a mile…it does everything he needs it to do and he's thrilled with it…
You would have thought that Nike made some kind of magic golf ball. Zinger, have you ever heard of the Titleist Pro V1?

Interestingly, the Nike-Disney relationship may have come as a result of one Mr. Tiger Woods.

Both Nike and Disney were among Tiger's initial corporate sponsors. Under the Disney deal, Tiger is required to make appearances in televised events on ABC and ESPN. Apparently, Disney wanted a much bigger deal, but was deterred by Nike. According to Ross Nethery:
Early on, Tiger was considering a deal to promote Disney’s theme parks, as well as help boost ratings at Disney-owned ABC and ESPN by playing in special made-for-TV events. Nike reportedly didn’t want the Disney name to outclass its association with Tiger, so the package ended up being all about the exhibition appearances, with no pitching of theme parks involved.
The possible conflicts of interest arising from such associations are problematic to say the least. How can we be assured that a media company will remain fair and objective when they maintain strategic relationships with companies and individuals? Does Disney-owned media give favorable treatment to Tiger Woods? Conversely, does Tiger Woods give favorable treatment to Disney? Remember Tiger's boycott of CBS commentator Peter Kostis? How much of that incident was due to Peter's association with a Disney competitor?

Does the same apply to any other Nike sponsored athlete? Now that Michelle Wie is on Team Nike, will she get the Tiger treatment? It wouldn't surprise me if Disney goes full-bore after LPGA television rights to support the latest Nike prodigy. Whatever happens, I sure hope that remains on TV somewhere...


Blogger The Undaunted Duffer said...

I would hope that at least one television network has the insight to hire Faldo and Azinger. The duo are a true testament of excellent commentation.

As for the Disney/Nike relationship: I believe that any media outlet cannot correctly portray an unbiased opinion, no matter what the subject matter.  


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