NEW YORK (Reuters) - Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O has no immediate plans to drop Tiger Woods as the pitchman for its golf video games, but the world’s former top golfer needs to get some wins under his belt, the video game publisher’s top executive said on Monday.
About a year ago, Woods was involved in an early morning auto accident that led to revelations about marital infidelities, the loss of up to $35 million in annual sponsorship revenue and divorce from his wife.
Since then, Woods has not won a tournament and has lost his ranking as the world’s No. 1 pro golfer, but EA has declined to abandon him. It even has plans to introduce a 2012 version of its Tiger Woods console video game next year, but EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello said Woods needs to end his losing streak.
“This is no threat against Tiger,” Ricitiello said at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York. “We’re with him because he has the promise of being the world’s best golfer.
“We have no plans to move away from him, but it’s a business relationship on the basis of we make the best golf game and he’s the best golfer,” he added. “Both of those things need to be true in the long run for the partnership to make sense.”
EA recently launched a golf game on Facebook that did not carry Woods’ name, but company executives said that had been the intention all along. Riccitiello said there are no plans to abandon the struggling golfer and adding games that don’t carry Woods’ name is being done to reach more gamers.
“We’re broadening the appeal of our golf business,” he said.
Woods’ off-field problems do not worry EA, but Riccitiello acknowledged the golfer may never regain his previous level of dominance on the greens.
Nevertheless, Woods’ struggles have not cost EA anything and executives feel loyalty toward him, Ricitiello said.
“He sort of stuck with us for a very long time and we made great business together,” Riccitiello said, “and we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time.”
Reporting by Ben Klayman in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz