Will Tiger’s Return Help Nike?

   

It’s difficult to say which is the more important news for Nike, Inc. (NKE). It reported upbeat earnings, revenues, and forecasts just a couple of days after its premier spokesman, Tiger Woods, announced that he would indeed play in this year’s Masters golf tournament.

Woods’ announcement will certainly generate a lot of “news” coverage, and the editorial well of virutally every newspaper in the country will include at least one story a day related to Woods’ return to golf following the revelations of his marital infidelity. Whether that is good or bad for Nike is arguable.

Sports market research firm SportScanInfo has released a report that counters an earlier study from the University of California-Davis that concluded that Tiger’s problems had reduced shareholder value in eight of his corporate sponsors by up to $12 billion. SportScanInfo’s research showed little impact from the wall-to-wall Tiger coverage in the time period between the November auto accident and Woods’ recent apology press conference.

Nike, which unlike AT&T (T), PepsiCo (PEP), and Accenture (ACN), has stood by Woods during his troubles, will experience a “non-event” in Woods’ return to golf according to a SportsScanInfo researcher. Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), another of Woods’ sponsors that has stuck with him, will soon launch a commercial version of its Tiger Woods online golf game and expects to release an updated version of its console game in June.

Whether Woods performs well at the Masters or not will be the big story, and if he wins, the purple prose surrounding the event will be almost unbearable. How that translates into shoe and golf equipment sales for Nike is harder to predict.

If the UC-Davis researchers are right, then sponsors like Nike and Electronic Arts should recover, and more, their share of the $12 billion that Tiger cost them. If the SportsScanInfo research is right, whatever Tiger does won’t affect his sponsors one way or the other.

Nike did not get to be $36 billion company by tossing away hundreds of millions of dollars on endorsements and advertising that don’t bring them more hundreds of millions in sales. The company’s shares are within pennies of a 52-week high today, and to say that Woods’ announcement has nothing to do with that is almost certainly nonsense.

It’s true that Nike’s third quarter 2010 EPS of $1.01 clobbered EPS estimates of $0.89, and revenues of $4.7 billion also beat estimates of $4.6 billion. The company also has an order book totaling $7.1 billion through July 2010, 9% higher than the same period last year.

But Nike’s share price has jumped nearly 6% so far today on double usual volume. Having Tiger Woods back on the golf course is good for Nike. Whether the rest of us can stand the coming tsunami of Tiger News is another.

Tell us what you think here.

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Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, http://investorplace.com/2010/03/nike-nke-earnings-tiger-woods-return/.

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