December 15, 2009 / 8:23 PM / in 9 years

Tiger Woods popularity slumps after sex scandal

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Trading card and memorabilia company Upper Deck said on Tuesday that it would not end its sponsor deals with Tiger Woods, whose popularity has slumped after a two week sex scandal.

Tiger Woods lines up his putt on the fourth hole during the final round of the Australian Masters tournament in Melbourne November 15, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

The company said it was standing by the world’s No. 1 golfer, who said on Friday that he was taking an “indefinite break” from the sport.

“Upper Deck will maintain its exclusive agreement with Tiger in both our sports cards and memorabilia categories, and we look forward to his eventual return to the PGA Tour,” Upper Deck Chief Executive Richard McWilliam said in a statement. “Tiger and his family have our full support.”

Woods has served as an exclusive spokesman and autograph signer for Upper Deck since 2001.

Woods, 33, last week admitted cheating on his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren as allegations of multiple extramarital affairs rocked his life and career.

The golfer’s public standing has plummeted as a parade of up to 13 women — from cocktail waitresses to porn stars — came forward to say they had had flings with the married father of two.

In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, Woods’ “favorable” rating dropped to 33 percent from 85 percent in June 2005. His “unfavorable” rating surged to 57 percent from 8 percent.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found more than four in 10 Americans hold an unfavorable view of Woods and more than a third — whether golf fans or not — believe companies should not continue to use Woods to endorse their products.

Findings like those are making companies nervous.

Accenture Plc has said it is ending its six-year sponsorship deal with Woods, the world’s first billionaire athlete. Procter & Gamble’s Gillette said it would limit the use of Woods in its marketing and AT&T is evaluating its relationship. Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer said would assess its options over the coming weeks.

Nike Inc and Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets unit have said they will not end their deals.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis

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