Image Repair Research Blog

Tiger Woods Apology

By: Sarah Barker

Our team chose to research Tiger Woods’ scandal in 2009. In November 2009, it was reported that Woods’ wife, Elin, was seen beating his car with a golf club after he crashed it into a fire hydrant. Later, sources revealed at the reason for this sudden outburst was that Woods was involved in a number of extramarital affairs. Because Woods is one of the greatest athletes and public figures of all time, he would soon have to face the public and try to salvage his image.

In the past, there have been many studies relating to Benoit’s Image Repair Theory and how it relates to athletes and celebrities. Previous studies that our team looked at were Michael Phelps, Paula Deen, and Jon and Kate Gosselin.

These previous studies helped our team benchmark where Woods fell on the scale of no image repair to full image repair. While none of these studies were exactly similar to Tiger Woods’ scandal, there were pieces of each that were similar. We chose Michael Phelps, because he is also an athlete, not to mention, at the same level of popularity as Tiger Woods. Paula Deen was chosen because she is a celebrity and we wanted to have a celebrity that was not an athlete and not a similar scandal to have another benchmark of how she repaired her image. The last celebrity that we chose to research was Jon and Kate Gosselin from TLC’s Jon and Kate: Plus 8. We chose this couple due to the type of scandal that they had, extramarital affairs. The research questions that we chose to address are:

  1. What image repair strategies did Tiger Woods use to respond to the negative public relations incidents that occurred during his sex scandal?
  2. How effective were the image repair strategies that Tiger Woods used during sex scandal?

We chose these questions because we wanted to see how Woods responded to the media and then also which tactics he chose in order to respond to those criticisms.

After looking at several studies that related to Woods’ scandal, we found that mortification is the most effective image repair strategy for celebrities and athletes. Phelps used this tactic and the scandal was quickly forgotten about, however Deen and the Gosselins chose to use different strategies and this dragged out their scandals. Woods also employed mortification as his main strategy, which proved to be effective in the long run. Unlike Phelps, Woods’ scandal was much larger because it involved so many people, which caused a much bigger firestorm than others.

We found, in our sample, that Woods used mortification 83% of the time when asked to speak about the issue. For Woods’ image, this was the right move. When looking at the media’s reactions to Woods’ statements after the scandal broke, most sources had a neutral to positive tone, stating “he seemed human and genuine.”

This strategy proves that Tiger Woods’ image repair campaign was in fact successful because he is still highly respected among the public and because his response was so genuine, he was able to recover well from it.



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