India's two-wheeler giant, the Hero Group, has signed American golf legend Tiger Woods as its brand ambassador in a four-year deal that targets
capturing new markets in North America and Europe.
The deal, for an undisclosed amount, can be termed as the biggest for an Indian manufacturer in terms of association with a global icon is concerned.
Interestingly, the announcement has come two days before the start of the prestigious PGA event World Challenge, which is hosted by Tiger Woods Foundation and Hero MotoCorp Ltd as the title sponsors.
"We have gone beyond the Hero World Challenge and we will also have Tiger Woods as our corporate partner for the next four years starting from December 1," Pawan Munjal, Managing Director, Hero Motocorp Limited, told a select media gathering in Orlando (Florida).
"It is an endorsement deal with Tiger Woods in which he will not only be partnering but also promoting Hero as a brand across the globe," Munjal said adding that "It is not just for the US market."
Hero Group is world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer but still considered only a domestic player. Joining hands with Woods is clearly a move to create a space at global level. The 38-year-old golf legend is a 14-time major championship winner, second only to Jack Nicklaus (18).
Asked what made them choose a player, whose reputation took a beating five years back due to his infidelity scandal, Munjal said they have taken a very "conscious" decision.
"Let me tell you, we are absolutely thrilled to be in a partnership with Tiger. Hero and Tiger together represent the best in our respective professions. Whatever happened is now all behind him. He went public, apologised for what has happened and he is back in the game," Munjal said.
"People are back with him, many corporates are back with him and obviously Hero took a very conscious call," he added, explaining the move. Putting things in perspective, Munjal said that they have been trying to take brand Hero out of India and such an association was imperative.
"International markets make brands huge. There are many markets where Hero does not have a presence, and has remained an unknown commodity. So a tie-up with a brand like Tiger Woods would get a very quick recognition."
Sources within the automobile company said that in Phase one of their network expansion, European countries such as Italy, France and Spain are on their radar.
"We plan to begin our launch in these three countries by the end of 2015. In Phase II, we will target UK and Germany," a source said. For a share in the huge European scooter market, Hero would now compete with established names such as Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Chinese brands. Not only the Europe, the automaker is targeting Argentine market next year and plans to coincide its launch in Brazil with the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
"The United States market will be also targeted in 2016," the source added. Munjal said they will start promoting the brand Hero with Tiger across the world through all forms of media – print, digital electronic, social media, outdoor.
"I believe this is huge, not just for me or an Indian company, but in general. I am very proud of this; of what we are doing as an Indian corporate and I believe that the whole of the Indian nation is proud of what we are doing at hero," a beaming Munjal said. Cricketers such as Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have been the brand ambassadors of the group apart from latest Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
"For me it is a very proud moment. As I speak about it I have goose-bumps."
"For me, Tiger personifies energy, perseverance, competitiveness, the will to excel and the will to be the best in whatever he does." However Munjal made it crystal clear that the deal does not mean Woods has to take part in every Indian Open.
"But it is open-ended. It is after all the 'Indian Open'."
Image: Tiger Woods Visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Photo: Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon