Did you have a rough 2009? Well, at least you’re not David Letterman or Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods’ travails offer risk managers an instructive case study in managing brand and reputation risk in the 21st century. Many of these lessons are placed in bold relief by contrasting Tiger Woods’ reaction with David Letterman’s exercise in crisis and reputational brand management.

Tiger’s precipitous fall did more than make him a laughingstock and the butt of Jay Leno’s monologue jokes. It had a real dollars-and-cents impact, just as a reputational hit would sting a corporation. Tiger’s “brand” has been tarnished and dented. As details dripped out bit by bit, many corporate sponsors dropped their ties to the golf titan. Tiger lost endorsements with Buick, Gatorade, and AT&T (among others) since his Thanksgiving incident. Most likely, Tiger lost multi-millions in endorsement income because of the flap. Some companies simply do not want their names to be associated with him while the cloud of controversy swirls.

Admittedly, Letterman was not in the same league as Tiger as a product endorser. His reputation took a hit, but he still has his highly rated show. The buzz over his dalliances subsided. (Letterman has an advantage over Tiger as well, in that the talk show host was alleged to have been the victim of attempted blackmail.)

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