Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Money Face-Off: Tiger Woods vs. David Beckham

Celebrities -- they're more than superior human beings, they're money-making machines. If these celebrities were stocks, which would be the shrewd buy?

Tiger Woods, unarguably the world's greatest golfer, or David Beckham, the world's best-know soccer player -- in which would you invest?

The industry that is Tiger has shown consistent growth in earnings, with PGA winnings in his first 13 years as a pro exceeding $70 million. His presence in a golf tournament boosts television ratings by 50% or more. He almost single-handedly established Nike in the golf equipment world. He holds the #5 place in Forbes' Celebrity 100 and was #2 in press clippings in 2005. Nike (NYSE: NKE), Buick (NYSE: GM), American Express (NYSE: AXP), Accenture, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) and Tag Heuer are among the companies that shovel buckets of cash his way in return for his endorsement.

David Beckham is no slouch in the cash category, either. The Times estimates the soccer star brings in a cool $40+ million for endorsements, including Adidas, ESPN, and Motorola (NYSE: MOT). Even in soccer-lite America, he has 51.9% recognition, more than twice that of NBA MVP Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.

Beckham also has an invaluable ally in his wife Victoria, formerly Posh Spice of the Spice Girls. The combination of a high-profile soccer career, trophy wife, and his reputation as the alpha metrosexual who sets fashion trends, convinced this country's Major League Soccer league to sign him to a contract worth as much as $250 million, including endorsement tie-ins.

Pretty enticing properties, right? So which would you like a piece of?

For my money, it's Tiger, by a landslide. At 30, he can expect to play at the peak of his game for another 12 to 15 years, then segue to the Senior Tour for another 20 years. As a player in a solo sport, he doesn't run the risk of disappearing in the roster of a bottom-dwelling team (ask Ken Griffey Jr.) Since he endorses products that aren't youth-specific, this income should remain strong. He also handles his fame well, making it seem highly unlikely he would stumble into a scandal.

Beckham, on the other hand, plays in a game unkind to the 35 and older player. He's already suffered through numerous injuries, which played a part in his lack of success with the Real Madrid club the past three years. He and his wife have quickly embraced the Hollywood scene, a two-edged sword -- he might successfully transition from sports star to entertainment star, but he could also suffer star fatigue from the overexposure that comes with the turf. My guess is that, after a couple of years of MLS play, he'll make a stab at acting. If that's a business plan, it's not one I'd put my money on.

Tiger vs. Beckham? Beckham may be able to bend 'em, but Tiger can put them in the hole. Who would you choose?

Vote in our poll for David Beckham or Tiger Woods, and let us know in the comments why your choice has the financial edge in this match-up. Also be sure to check out our other Money Face-Offs.