American Express Co. blasted a hole in one Monday when it signed golf phenomenon Tiger Woods to a multimillion-dollar, multiyear deal as a spokesman.
The deal was seen as a major coup for the financial services company, which was reportedly vying with MasterCard International for Mr. Woods' services.
"Tiger Woods crosses every demographic line," said Richard Zien, partner in Los Angeles-based Mendelsohn/Zien Advertising Inc. "This is a guy that is going to appeal to an audience that makes $250,000 a year as well as an audience that makes $25,000."
Many companies have been courting Mr. Woods since he turned pro, but before American Express landed him, only Nike Inc. and Titleist/Cobra had inked deals, worth an estimated $60 million.
Financial details of the American Express deal were not released, but Brandweek reported Monday that it includes $5 million up front as part of a $13 million rights fee, and more than $30 million in advertising and promotional support using Mr. Woods.
"In Tiger, we have a representative whose appeal has transcended the fans of the sport," said Kenneth I. Chenault, president and chief operating officer of American Express. "People of all walks of life have embraced that young man as a symbol of what we all aspire to be."
American Express has a 22-year history of celebrity endorsements, supporting its campaigns with an eclectic group that has included entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes, soccer player Pele, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Roy Disney of the entertainment conglomerate.
Getting the most out of these endorsements isn't easy, however. Mr. Woods said in a telephone press conference Monday that he can't wear the American Express logo on his clothes or equipment without violating his contracts with Nike and Titleist, which manufactures golf balls and bags.
Indeed, Mr. Zien said, Mr. Woods is so closely identified with Nike that American Express will have to work extremely hard to build its relationship with him.
As part of the arrangement, American Express will also donate $1 million to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Other card companies had approached him with similar offers, Mr. Woods said. "But American Express saw the importance of the Tiger Woods Foundation and what it can do for junior golf and minorities in the inner city."
Mr. Woods said he will exclusively use American Express cards for his personal and business expenses.
One industry observer said the presence of Mr. Chenault, the highest ranked African-American at a card company, might have influenced Mr. Woods' decision.
Since his debut on the Professional Golfers' Association tour last fall, Mr. Woods has broken records with almost every swing of his club, winning five of his first 16 tournaments as a professional.
It is not only Mr. Woods' golf prowess, American Express said, but also his ethnic background as both an African-American and an Asian-American that the company hopes will help represent its business internationally.
Mr. Chenault noted that golf was invented in Scotland, is popular in Latin America, and is the fastest-growing sport in Asia. In Japan nearly 40% of households own a set of golf clubs, and they spend roughly $1,500 a year on golf related purchases, he said.
Print ads featuring a picture of Tiger Woods, a caption saying, "I plan to do more" and the American Express logo, are scheduled to run nationally in newspapers today.
Mr. Woods will appear in television commercials touting American Express Financial Advisors as part of the company's "Do More" campaign. The spots are slated to debut in the third quarter.
The current celebrity promoting this umbrella advertising campaign, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, will continue to work with American Express, Mr. Chenault said.