During E3 it was made clear that EA Sports intends to continue their relationship with Tiger Woods for at least one more year. Sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters were up and the name has undoubtedly become synonymous with the video game from a branding standpoint. The company may have made a misstep however by not fully transitioning to Rory McIlroy when they had the chance.
McIlroy dominated the U.S. Open by setting a course record -16 score over the weekend. The young (he’s only 22) Irish golfer is now being compared to Tiger Woods at the same age as someone who could carry interest in the sport going forward. The story is made all the better by the way he responded after a tragic final round at The Masters that had some questioning if he would ever be able to bounce back from.
After the image of Tiger Woods took a huge hit due to his transgressions EA made the move of having him share the cover of Tiger 11 with McIlroy. The official explanation was that it was planned all along and was meant to represent the addition of the Ryder Cup but there was obviously more to it than that as it was just the start of diminishing Woods’ role. With Tiger 12 he was practically absent from the cover as The Masters took center stage. Sales of Tiger 11 plunged dramatically due to the controversy around Woods but then recovered with Tiger 12 thanks in large part to The Masters and better word of mouth.
Unfortunately for EA they didn’t continue to push McIlroy because they would have been in a great position now. Woods has been unable to compete at a high level ever since things started unraveling in his personal life and injuries are even keeping him off the course as was the case with the U.S. Open. He has fallen all the way to being ranked 15th in the world with no signs of a career re-birth being around the bend.
McIlroy may not have had the huge name recognition until now but having The Masters to shield that for one year would have allowed the company to build him up as the new frontman. They would have been able to fully capitalize on his new found stardom now. EA could potentially still make a change in the future, but the initial impact of losing the Tiger name would make it more difficult to pull the trigger on now that the series has stabilized.