If Tiger Woods weren't Tiger Woods, if his image hadn't been tarnished by a drunken-driving arrest and his back injured so badly that he could barely walk a few years ago, his victory in the 2019 Masters tournament wouldn't have been the same.
Not as inspiring for fans, who were thrilled to see the 43-year-old walk away with his fifth green jacket after recovering from four surgeries on his knee and an equal number on his back.
And not as lucrative for Nike, the sports-apparel giant that stuck with Woods through a decade of lows to reap millions in free advertising as TV reporters followed the champion's trek toward a comeback.
"It's all about the camera shots," said Eric Smallwood, president of advertising consultant Apex Marketing, who estimated that visuals of Woods' Nike-branded hat, shirt, pants, and shoes were worth $22.5 million to the Beaverton, Ore.-based company. "They pretty much followed him around. Every time he swung a club, except four or five times, he was on camera."
Monster Energy drinks, whose logo adorns Woods' golf bag, garnered about $958,333 worth of air time, according to Apex. Bridgestone, which makes his golf balls, netted about $134,167.
"If anyone else had won, we wouldn't be hearing this story the way we're going to be hearing this story — for a very long time," Eric Yaverbaum, who runs New York-based Ericho Communications and has spent 35 years in marketing and public relations, told the Washington Examiner. "The thing about redemption arcs is people love them. They're dramatic, they're cinematic, they give us someone to root for."
With long experience in employing headline-making athletes as representatives, Nike was ready to seize the moment. It posted an ad built around the victory the same day, urging viewers to chase "crazy dreams" and noting that Woods had moved another step closer to his lifetime goal of topping the 18 major wins picked up by Jack Nicklaus.
"It's crazy to think a 43-year-old who has experienced every high and every low and has just won his 15th major is chasing the same dream as a 3-year-old," the company says in the spot, which includes black-and-white footage of Woods as a child jumping up and down after sinking a putt.
[Related: Trump giving Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom for comeback in sports and life]
Never stop chasing your crazy dream. #justdoit @TigerWoods pic.twitter.com/q9OV6oGLDN— Nike (@Nike) April 14, 2019
Nike, which signed an endorsement contract with Woods in 1996, has also generated controversy with such arrangement at times.
A 2013 campaign with the golfer, who was then rebounding after a 2010 divorce from Swedish model Elina Nordegren and intense media coverage of extramarital affairs, used the slogan, "Winning takes care of everything."
Last year, when the French Open banned catsuits like the Nike garment that tennis star Serena Williams wore in May, the company responded with a Twitter post.
"You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers," Nike said, a reference to Williams' statement that wearing the suit made her feel like a superhero.
President Trump, who has condemned another of Nike's representatives, Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who made headlines by kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, had nothing but praise for Woods, promising to present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Should Woods be a Masters contender again in 2020, his sponsors stand to reap an even bigger windfall, said Yaverbaum, who routinely advises clients to "show up where the story is already happening."
Woods is "a legend," he said, and if his 2019 win represents a return to form, "you can expect that there will be an ongoing narrative."
Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterday’s @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
In the immediate aftermath of Woods' victory, the realization hadn't quite sunk in, the golfer told reporters during a news conference at the Augusta National, the Georgia course where the Masters is played.
"I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple of years ago," he said. "I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. Couldn't do much of anything. Luckily, I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life. Then, all of a sudden, I realized I could swing a golf club again."