As a tiger to another, the world’s most famous golfer on the mend is a perfect match for India’s ambitious Hero MotoCorp, one of the world’s largest motorcycle makers.
Which is why Hero hired former world No. 1 Tiger Woods to pitch its brand as it pushes into new markets.
“Hero is going to ride the Tiger,” Pawan Munjal, chief executive, told the Financial Times.
“We have this target of making the brand a global brand. So what we really need to do is partner and ride on another hugely successful global brand.”
Hero’s high-profile, four-year contract with Woods which Munjal says will cost “a substantial amount”, is a pioneering step for an Indian company.
Indian groups have typically either bought brands overseas – as Tata did with Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover – or used cricketers and Bollywood stars to focus their branding efforts on their home market of nearly 1.3 billion people.
Munjal described Woods, once the world’s most marketable and best paid sportsman, as “a huge celebrity who cuts across the globe and not just for the US or any one country”.
Hero is picking up Woods at a difficult time for the 38-year-old golfer.
Five years ago, Woods’ big sponsors including General Motors, AT&T and Gatorade, ended their deals with him after a series of infidelities came to light.
The debacle cost shareholders of the sponsors US$5 billion to US$12 billion, according to researchers at the University of California Davis.
After the scandal, Woods returned to the professional golf circuit and in July last year he signed an extension of an endorsement contract with Nike.
His stellar career, which in prize money alone has earned him more than US$130 million, included 14 major wins but none since 2008.
Injury has held back his form and appearances in recent years and the game’s younger breed – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler – attracts more global attention and sponsorship demand.
Hero, which ended its joint venture with the world’s number one producer Honda three years ago to go it alone, is India’s largest maker of two-wheelers and has a market capitalisation of US$10 billion.
“The focus right now is Africa, South America, Central America. These are the growing markets where we can take our current products and quickly ramp up volumes, or [do so] with little, slight modifications,” Munjal said.
Hero wants a tenth of its annual sales to come from overseas by 2020 if it achieves its target of doubling output from 6.2 million motorcycles in the 2013-14 financial year.
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