Awww. How did they meet?
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn met at a charity auction in April 2012 but reportedly didn’t start dating until the fall. On Feb. 5, when Vonn injured her knee in an accident at the Alpine Ski World Championships in Austria, Woods sent his private jet to pick her up. This is Woods’s first public relationship since his divorce from Elin Nordegren in 2010, after the 2009 scandal in which 12 women claimed to be sleeping with him (and had sexts to prove it). Nordegren reportedly got a $100 million settlement. Vonn went through a divorce in 2011 from her former manager and coach, Thomas Vonn, whom she met when she was 16. “Nothing bad happened,” Vonn told People last year. “But there was just unhappiness.” The new couple went public with their relationship last week on Facebook (FB).
Why make a public announcement?
“It’s how you control the story,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist who works with athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal. Woods told the New York Times of the decision: “We wanted to limit the stalk-a-razzi and all those sleazy websites that are out there following us. I’ve had situations where it’s been very dangerous for my kids. … We basically devalued the first photos.” The move also sends a message to their fans, says Nick Nanton, a celebrity lawyer and branding consultant. “If you’re known as someone who lets your social media followers in on secrets before the media, it builds a stronger line of communication with your fan base,” he says. “In the long run, that can be very profitable.”
Is Vonn unaware of Woods’s past?
Like everyone else, she’s aware. Vonn mocked Woods’s alleged sex addiction during a 2010 interview with Time, playacting an imaginary press conference. “There’s something you don’t know about me,” she said. “Tiger, you’re like my idol, and I too have a sex problem. … That would be freaking funny.”
Do they have any role models?
Yes! They can double-date with Major League Baseball catcher Matt Treanor and pro beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, together for eight years; All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and soccer player Mia Hamm, in love for 10; and tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, married for 12.
How will their involvement affect their respective endorsement deals?
It’ll help. Last year, for the first time since 2004, Woods wasn’t the highest-earning American athlete on Sport Illustrated’s Fortunate 50 ranking. He dropped to third place, behind Phil Mickelson and Floyd Mayweather. Woods made just(!) $54.5 million in 2011, a little more than half of his $92 million earnings in 2009. “Being in a public relationship is going to be very beneficial for him,” says Anthony Fernandez, an athlete branding expert in Orlando. “It shows he can be normal. Sponsors want somebody they can trust, who’s reliable and isn’t going to cause a scandal.” Vonn made roughly $3 million last year, mostly from endorsements. “I don’t think her price tag will go up,” says Fernandez. “But she’ll definitely become more valuable to her existing sponsors. She was a name to begin with, but now that she’s dating Woods, she’s entered another league.”
They both endorse Rolex. Is there any chance they’ll start doing commercials together?
It wouldn’t be the first time a sports power couple teamed up to do TV ads. Agassi and Graf co-starred in commercials for T-Mobile in 2002 and Genworth Financial (GNW) in 2004.
In his Facebook announcement, Woods said that he and Vonn want to continue their relationship “as an ordinary couple.” Is that even possible?
“Are Beyoncé and Jay-Z normal?” Lombardo asks. “That’s one of the famous couples that does a good job at appearing so, even though there’s nothing about their lives that seems normal to us. For most people, it’s not normal to send a jet to pick up your girlfriend. But for them, that might be an expression of intimacy. Everybody’s different.”