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For AT&T, Tiger Woods Return Means Big Ad Value Boost

AT&T Inc. (T) cut ties with Tiger Woods late last year but the telecom provider stands to benefit big time from the golfer’s pending return to the Masters Tournament.

BusinessWeek reported on Thursday that AT&T – and the two other companies that paid a flat fee to be the broadcast’s only advertisers – will see the value of its TV spots soar by 43 percent thanks to Woods’s comeback.

A media analyst told BusinessWeek that a 30-second commercial without Woods’s presence is worth about $350,000. But with Woods in the game, that ad time value skyrockets to $500,000.

Another industry observer agreed.

“I don’t think there is any other athlete in any other sport that is so impactful on ratings,” Rick Gentile, a former executive producer for CBS Sports who runs a sports poll at Seton Hall University, told BusinessWeek. “He changes the ratings just by his presence.”

So, even though AT&T no longer sponsors Woods, it still will profit from the golfer’s presence at the Masters Tournament, which begins early next month. IBM Corp. and Exxon Mobile Corp. join AT&T as the game’s sole advertisers.

This past New Year’s Eve, AT&T dropped Woods as its spokesman, even though AT&T had never put Woods in any advertising. The company did, though, put its name on Woods’s golf bag and backed his Tiger Jam charity event. And AT&T got to walk away from Tiger Woods and the golfer’s tarnished reputation without paying a penny, according to the New York Times. The paper quoted a company official who confirmed the telco giant did not have to pay to end its sponsorship with Woods, or go to court over the matter.

Technically, AT&T owed Woods millions of dollars for ending the contract. But Woods and his agent apparently released AT&T from any requirements, a source familiar with the deal told the New York Times.

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