Sports giant took a risk on Woods, but the decision was based on cold cost analysis, says Daniel Schofield of the Telegraph

You would have to possess a heart of stone - or have placed a significant stake in Francesco Molinari at 30-1 - to begrudge Tiger Woods claiming his 15th major title at the Masters.

Hollywood studios are already furiously sniffing the rights for a narrative that encompasses many trials, tribulations and a redeeming triumph.

His personal glory was shared by Nike, which quickly released a video entitled "never stop chasing that crazy dream" which attracted 24.6 million views on its website. For this, the company was lavished with praise.

"Nike's years of loyalty to Tiger Woods paid off on Sunday," was the headline on CNN.


Meanwhile, the New York Post commended Nike for "sticking by" Woods after revelations broke of various marital infidelities, his arrest for driving under the influence and a collapse in form when many other sponsors including Gillette, Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture abandoned him.

All this suggests that Nike kept paying Woods during his fallow period through the goodness of its black, black heart. Yet even when Woods dropped to 1,199 in the rankings, he remained by far the sport's biggest name. One American golf writer estimates that around 80 per cent of its web traffic is generated by Woods alone.

It is hardly like Nike took a punt on some up-and-comer who toiled for many years on the European Tour before winning big.

As with everything Nike does, the decision to keep Woods was based on a cold, hard cost analysis. As Woods's other sponsors took flight, it would have calculated the impact of negative publicity versus his potential future earnings. On the sliding scale of moral outrage, driving while intoxicated and womanising rank as more forgivable sins, far below the threshold it has for cancelling contracts because of homophobia (Manny Pacquiao), industrial level doping (Lance Armstrong) and murder (Oscar Pistorius).

Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 2019 Masters. Photo /Getty
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 2019 Masters. Photo /Getty

Profit is Nike's only basis for action. Last year it was praised for its "bravery" when it jumped on the Colin Kaepernick bandwagon a full two years after the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback began his kneeling protest against racial injustice.

Again, Nike would have crunched the numbers that a few hundred rednecks trying to burn its merchandise - usually unsuccessfully - in the ensuing backlash would be far outweighed by improving its connection with the "woke" generation. And it was right. After initially dipping, its share price rocketed.

Sorry, but the idea that Nike has any kind of moral compass is ludicrous. This is a company that handed a lucrative endorsement deal to two-time drugs cheat Justin Gatlin, and welcomed back Michael Vick - a former Atlanta Falcons quarterback - after his release from prison for organising a dog-fighting ring.

Also remember that its fundamental business model, critics allege, is based upon exploiting sweatshop labour in south-east Asia. There are dozens of stories detailing abuses in these factories. In 2017, it was reported temperatures in excess of 37C had caused more than 500 workers to faint in Cambodian factories supplying Nike as well as Puma and Asics. These revelations helped spark protests across university campuses in America.

Around the same time that Nike launched its Kaepernick campaign, a group of former female employees launched a lawsuit for gender discrimination and ignoring sexual harassment complaints. Nike has denied any wrongdoing.

The company's decision to keep backing Woods was a calculated gamble that paid off handsomely. Over the course of the Masters, Nike's share price rose from $85 to $86.83 - the equivalent of a $4 billion rise - while Apex Marketing estimates that it gained $22 million in brand exposure on Sunday (UST) alone.

So, let us not pretend that Nike is a corporation overflowing with integrity and compassion - or that I am just embittered because Molinari dumped his ball in the water at the 12th and 15th.