Tiger Woods has become the latest victim of the credit crunch after US car giant General Motors said it was ending its sponsorship deal with the golfer a year early. The move comes as GM is petitioning the US government for financial support to avoid going into bankruptcy. The company said the arrangement with Woods, who is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, is "mutual and amicable". Woods will continue to drive Buick vehicles through 2009.
Mark LaNeve, GM's North American vice president of sales, played down the move in a statement: "In light of the news coming out of Washington, this decision is the result of discussions that started earlier in the year, and the timing of this agreement with these other activities is purely coincidental."
The Detroit-based car manufacturer, which spends heavily on golf, has been slashing its marketing costs. GM has already taken the decision to not run TV ads next year during such events as the Oscars, Emmy award shows and Super Bowl. For the past nine years, Woods has endorsed GM products around the world and been heavily associated with the Buick brand in the US, Canadian and Chinese markets.
Woods finished playing golf in June this year to undergo knee surgery after winning four of six tournaments in which he played. He intends to return to the tour some time in 2009, but will not be at full strength until 2010. GM has deals through 2010 as the title sponsor of two PGA (Professional Golfer's Association) Tour events -- the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, California, and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan.
Buick has been involved with golf since 1950, when it became one of the PGA Tour's initial sponsors, and it is still the tour's official car through 2010. GM signalled the ending of its partnership with Woods may not be the last golf sponsorship agreement that takes a hit. The company said it is also is in talks with the PGA of America about its sponsorship contract.
Woods, meanwhile, still has sponsorship agreements with Nike and Gatorade and he is currently starring in a global ad campaign for Gillette alongside Roger Federer and Thierry Henry.