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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Accenture: Tigers, elephants, and frogs; oh my!

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, February 10, 2010
“…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

True or false: Finding himself unable to keep his fly in the full, upright, and locked position, Tiger Woods’ ethical downfall precipitated reputation-associated losses on the order of $12 billion by his sponsors?

FALSE. The Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index shows no evidence of headline risk effects.

On 28 December 2009, Christopher R. Knittel and Victor Stango posted on the web their study, Shareholder Value Destruction following the Tiger Woods Scandal. These economists, associated with both the University of California, Davis, and NBER, reviewed the market behavior of six public sponsors of Mr. Woods—Accenture (NYSE:ACN), AT&T (NYSE:T), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Gillette (NYSE:PG), Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) and Gatorade (NYSE:PEP). Using an ‘event study’ method, they concluded that shareholders of companies that Mr. Woods endorsed lost $5-12 billion in wealth between 27 November and 11 December. The authors imply headline risk as the proximate cause.

We disagree. While there were some market cap losses and fewer gains, we see no evidence of consistent decreased reputation metrics among the sponsors. Using tools described briefly at Steel City Re, and in more detail in the forthcoming book, Mission: Intangible. Risk and reputation management to create enterprise value, we see no change in reputation rank trends over the relevant two week window. We share exemplary Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index metrics for four (4) of the companies alleged to have suffered the consequences of headline risk.

First, AT&T rewarded its shareholders over this period with a positive bump, although it was not as significant of a bump as the median of its 57-member peer group. Its Reputation Index also showed a small positive bump ending the period at the 92nd percentile. The bottom line: better reputation metrics over the critical period.

Second, Accenture and Nike showed no movement in their reputation metrics. In the charts showing the Reputation Index and its exponentially weighted moving average volatility for the past six months, Accenture is flat at the 94th percentile and Nike is flat at the 100th percentile. The bottom line: no change in reputation metrics over the critical period.

Last, in the chart showing both the Reputation Index for Electronic Arts and the both the median and variance of the index measurements for the Software Group sector, three things are apparent. First, Electronic Arts’ Reputation Index ranking continued its downward trend during the critical period. Second, the median reputation ranking for the entire sector slid over the course of the entire year. Third and last, there is much volatility in the variance of the index rankings in this sector. The bottom line: weaker reputation metrics over the critical period reflecting continuation of a year-long trend.

The data suggest that in this instance, the downfall of an iconic spokesperson generated significant press, much speculation, but ultimately nothing untoward with respect to his sponsors. Bottom line: No headline risk seen. Goodbye Tiger. Hello elephant and frog.

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