Since Tiger Woods' alleged extramarital affairs surfaced just after Thanksgiving, advertisers have refrained from airing TV ads featuring his endorsements, according to The Nielsen Co. media tracking firm.
It's unclear whether his sponsors -- including Nike, Gatorade and Tag Heuer -- will permanently ditch Woods, especially in light of his decision Friday to take an indefinite leave from golf.
But public relations executives are sure of one thing: The empire Woods built on his squeaky-clean image is now in a sand trap.
``Tiger Woods is a human being,'' said Ray Casas, co-founder of Brickell-based PR firm Wragg & Casas. "But the whole operation of what Tiger Woods is -- is a business enterprise, and businesses prepare for this kind of thing ahead of time.''
AT&T on Friday continued its week-long policy of refraining from comment, while representatives for Nike Golf and laser-eye surgery chain TLC Vision Corp stated the companies plan to continue sponsoring Woods.
PepsiCo recently announced it has discontinued producing Gatorade Tiger Focus -- though the company claims the move was decided prior to the public display of grimy laundry.
Woods' woes follow a car crash outside his Orlando home on Nov. 27 that reportedly resulted from an argument with his wife, Elin Nordegren Woods, over his infidelity. Several women -- including Las Vegas cocktail waitress Jamie Jungers and porn star Holly Sampson -- have since claimed that they slept with the 33-year-old father of two.
As the women keep coming forth, so does the pressure from companies that pay Woods up to a combined total of $80 million annually to be their model of choice.
"Corporations are enormously sensitive to their audiences . . . the man was a serial philanderer,'' Coral Gables-based PR crisis guru Bruce Rubin said.
With millions of dollars and a legacy at stake, the future of the Tiger brand depends on damage control, the experts say.
Rubin's solution: An on-camera confession and apology.
"If he called now, I'd put him on 60 Minutes . . . and have him say, `I goofed up my personal life and marriage, royally. I don't know what I was thinking . . . But I'm now going to devote 100 percent of my time to see if I can restore my marriage and put my family together.' ''
Then there are those, like social media expert and PR consultant Peter Shankman, who believe Woods' problems go beyond a heartfelt apology.
Packing up with the wife and kids and leaving the country? That might be a better course, he says.
"I've never seen it this big. I've seen celebrities go down in flames, and usually it's of their own doing: Lindsay Lohan, Gov. Sanford. But no one ever expected it from Tiger,'' Shankman said.
And that, say crisis managers, is a pivotal issue.
The focused young athlete who broke social barriers and golf records built his empire on his Mr. Clean image, putting himself on track to become the first $1 billion athlete. That barrier, Forbes magazine estimated, would be broken by 2011.
But this year's Thanksgiving weekend -- and Woods's subsequent silence -- might have changed all that.
"He's no longer perceived in the same way,'' Rubin said. "This'll be a big stain that'll haunt him forever.''
Complicating matters is Nordegren's reported intentions to replace a 2004 prenuptial agreement -- $20 million after a decade married -- with one that guarantees her $75 million after only seven years -- if she remains quiet about the ordeal.
Dennis Freeman, a divorce attorney based in the Miami suburb of Aventura, said the rumored deal could work in Woods' favor: If the golfer saves face, he'll generate more than the millions lost with a split marriage.
"In his situation, he's doing asset protection,'' he said. ``Her leverage is how this impacts him financially in the future and his endorsements. If she stays by him, that's going to be of enormous benefit to him.''