Tag Heuer reassessing relationship

Updated: December 14, 2009, 4:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

While Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight said on Monday his company is committed to its relationship with Tiger Woods, Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer said it will spend the next few weeks assessing its relationship with the embattled golfer.

One day after another sponsor, Accenture, decided to part ways with Woods, Knight told SportsBusiness Journal that the scandal surrounding him is "part of the game" in signing endorsement deals with athletes. Woods admitted to "infidelity" in his marriage in a statement released Friday on his Web site.

Woods' background was checked out by Nike before signing a deal with him and, according to Knight, "he came out clean."

Knight said companies cannot get such background checks right all the time and "there's always a risk." He added that the company's relationship with its most famous client isn't going to change.

"I think he's been really great," Knight said in the interview published Monday. "When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now."

Earlier Monday, Tag Heuer spokeswoman Mariam Sylla said the sponsorship is unchanged because Woods remains the world's best golfer and Tag Heuer does not care about his private life.

"We will continue," Sylla told The Associated Press. "He's the best in his domain. We respect his performance in the sport," she said, adding that Woods' personal life is "not our business."

Yet the statement from the company Monday afternoon marked a less enthusiastic stance about the world's richest athlete than earlier in the day. Tag Heuer's new statement said that because of Woods' indefinite leave from golf, it is examining its long-term relationship with him.

Tag Heuer has been sponsoring Woods since 2002. Financial details of the agreement have not been announced.

Tag Heuer's comment came a day after global consulting firm Accenture PLC became the first major sponsor to announce it was cutting ties with Woods.

Accenture said Sunday the golfer is "no longer the right representative" after the "circumstances of the last two weeks."

The move ends a six-year relationship during which the firm credited its "Go on, be a Tiger" campaign with boosting its image significantly.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press is included in this report.