Tiger and LeBron: When Sports Icons Stumble

How the mighty have fallen. As Tiger Woods prepares for this week's Bridgestone Invitational, he returns with fewer fans than when he won the tournament last year. New data from Marketing Evaluations, the market research company that calculates Q scores, found that Woods' appeal among sports fans is down by a third and that it has dropped by 50 percent among the general population, compared to last year. Said Marketing Evaluations President Steven Levitt—with Tiger struggling both on and off the golf course—"it will be quite challenging, if not impossible, for [Woods] to regain the warm feelings he once had from his fans."

Woods' troubles have been reflected on various lists in recent weeks. His estimated endorsements for 2010 are worth $22 million less than they were last year, according to Sports Illustrated's annual "Fortunate 50" list. While EA Sports (ERTS) kept Woods as a spokesperson, first-month sales of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 video game are down 68 percent from last year's release, including a steep 86 percent decline on the Nintendo (NTDOY) Wii platform. For the first time in four years, Woods doesn't hold sole leadership in Harris Interactive's "Favorite American Athlete" poll. He shares the top spot with the Lakers' Kobe Bryant.

sponsorship spending cuts a mistake?

Despite all his problems, Woods won't be Ohio's most-despised athlete this week. That distinction goes to former Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who fell to sixth place, from third, in the Harris Interactive poll. With the Cavs struggling to rebuild the team roster—and the Indians long gone from the American League Baseball Central Division race—stalwart Ohio-based companies are examining whether or not to reallocate some sports sponsorship dollars in the wake of James' abrupt exit from Cleveland.

The call is easy for one Bridgestone supporter. Sports attorney Fred Nance of the international law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey says now is not the time for companies to cut sponsorship spending. "Sports sponsorships help companies stand out in this turbulent economic environment," Nance says. "The reality is, you have to spend money to make money, and sports sponsorships reach consumers while they are engaged in an activity they truly enjoy."

Jags rent out stadium name—for now

A fresh National Football League season means more than just a way to spend Sunday afternoons. When the preseason kicks off on Aug. 8 with the annual Hall of Fame Game, several NFL teams will take the field in renovated facilities. What better time than the dormant summer for some "out with the old and in with the new?"

Our tour around NFL stadiums starts in North Florida, where Jacksonville-based EverBank has purchased the naming rights to city-owned Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, home of the Jaguars. The five-year deal is worth $3.3 million a year. The stadium hadn't had a naming partner since Alltel's agreement expired in 2007. By no means does the deal signify that the Jags are committed to Jacksonville long-term. When asked about the team's future, 75-year-old Jags owner Wayne Weaver said: "I have to have an exit strategy at some point because I don't have anybody in the family that is going to take the team." Don't rule out real estate developer Ed Roski—who remains committed to bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles—as the exit plan.

From a new name to a new paint scheme, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Foundation gave the Metrodome a more Vikings feel. With baseball's Twins now playing at Target Field, the MSFC is trying to keep the Vikes as its primary tenant. Purple is now the dominant color at the Metrodome. The MSFC installed new turf, created a new football ticket office, and adorned the dome with Vikings murals and memorabilia.

New Meadowlands Stadium—$1.6 billion

The Vikings weren't the only NFL team to get an extreme stadium makeover during the off-season. The Kansas City Chiefs recently unveiled a renovated Arrowhead Stadium. Changes include a refurbished club level, an expanded team store, and upgraded bars, restaurants, and concession areas. Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt said the team's vision for the product was "New body, same soul."

If there's one stadium to keep an eye on when the season kicks off, it's the league's fresh crown jewel, the New Meadowlands Stadium. The latest home of the New York Giants and Jets cost $1.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive stadiums ever built. With seating capacity for 82,566 fans, including 10,005 club seats and approximately 218 luxury suites, it's the second-largest facility in the league, behind FedEx Field, the Landover, Md., home of the Washington Redskins, which has a capacity of 91,704. About $100 million was spent just on the New Meadowlands Stadium's technology.

With all the facility upgrades across the league, it's only fitting that the NFL would move to new digs as well. With its lease set to expire in 2012, the league is moving its headquarters two blocks north, into an office tower at 345 Park Ave. In an effort to cut costs, the new office will take up 175,000 square feet, about 15 percent less space than the 205,000 sq. ft. the NFL office currently occupies.

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