Upper Deck sticking by Woods

Updated: December 15, 2009, 8:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MILWAUKEE -- Sports card and memorabilia maker Upper Deck Co. said Tuesday it will continue its relationship with Tiger Woods.

The company, and its Upper Deck Authenticated collectibles division, said the two "look forward to his eventual return to the PGA Tour."

Upper Deck CEO Richard McWilliam said in a statement the athlete and his family have the company's full support.

Woods announced late last week he was taking an indefinite leave from public life and golf while he works to fix his marriage after multiple allegations of infidelity.

Since then, Woods' sponsors have been weighing their options as the media firestorm surrounding Woods continues. Companies use celebrity endorsements to sell products and boost their image. But the propositions can be risky and expensive if a celebrity falls from grace.

And Woods has gone underground. Charles Barkley says Woods changed his cell phone number the day after his car accident is not talking to some of his famous friends.

On a show that airs Sunday on news network HLN, Barkley and filmmaker Spike Lee worry that Woods isn't taking advantage of the invaluable advice his friends who are used to the spotlight can offer.

"You should reach out to your celebrity friends when things go bad," Barkley told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "They're the only people who understand what it's like."

Barkley appears on "With All Due Respect" with fellow Turner Sports analysts Dennis Eckersley and Kyle Petty. Lee is one of the guests in the one-hour special during which the sports stars discuss a variety of topics.

"He's insulated," Lee said of Woods during the taping for the show. "If Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan can't get to him, and those are his boys, then other people are making bad moves."

Barkley told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has not spoken to Woods since the Nov. 27 accident, which unleashed a series of events that resulted in him admitting to marital infidelity.

"I've been trying to get to him and can't get to him," he said. "It's very frustrating."

Barkley said he just wants to tell Woods, "Hey, man, we love you. If you need anything, pick up the phone."

Woods has been Upper Deck's exclusive golf spokesman and autograph signer since 2001. The company declined to comment on the length or value of the contract.

The company, which is based in Carlsbad, Calif., sells everything from $1,000 autographed pictures of Woods to original artwork and autographed shoes.

It has not had a golf trading card set since 2005, but spokesman Terry Melia said sometimes Upper Deck includes single cards of Woods, along with other celebrities and stars, in baseball card launches.

Major sponsor Accenture dropped Woods on Sunday, saying he no longer fits with the company's image. The consulting firm had banked heavily on the golfer to push its attributes of perfection and integrity.

According to figures from TNS Media Intelligence released Tuesday, Accenture included Woods' name or image in 83 percent of its advertising spending from January through October, for a total of $31 million. That marked the biggest percentage of a company's ad budget, out of Woods' main sponsors.

Other sponsors including Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer and AT&T have said they're examining their relationship with Woods. According to TNS, Tag Heuer spent 23 percent of its advertising money on ads with Woods, for a total of $953,000. Figures for AT&T weren't available.

Gillette, a unit of Procter & Gamble, announced Saturday it would not air ads featuring Woods. The grooming products brand did not say when and under what conditions it would resume airing them. According to TNS, 9 percent of the brand's advertising through October this year included Woods, for a total value of $14.3 million.

Besides Upper Deck, other companies that have said they stand by Woods include Nike Inc. and Electronic Arts, which both spent under $4 million on ads with Woods, or less than 5 percent of their ad spending. PepsiCo Inc.'s Gatorade is also saying it supports Woods. The brand spent $26.2 million on ads with him through October, or about 23 percent of its total advertising spending.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.