When Tiger Woods mutually ended his nine-year relationship with General Motors this week, it offered yet another snapshot of how badly the American economy has deteriorated.
Woods is one of the world's most marketable athletes with an estimated $100 million in endorsements a year. If his agreement with one of the world's most active sports sponsors dissolved, some experts wonder if any endorsement or sponsorship deal is really ironclad in these tough times.
"The real story here isn't Tiger," says Marc Ganis, the president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm. "It's the [U.S.] auto industry. There are a lot of parties who are going to have some difficulties finding sponsors to substitute for what the auto industry used to provide."
The NBA's LeBron James ($28 million in endorsements according to Sports Illustrated's 2007 figures), Roger Federer ($20 million) and those in the top-circle elite don't have so much to worry about because, like Woods, they have multiple deals spread over several industries.
As for everyone else - well, Ganis believes they will feel the pain. If money from the auto industry and financial world dries up, athletes and events that are lower in the pecking order will get thirsty.
"You've just got to be much more creative," said Evan Morgenstein, an agent for Olympic gymnastics champ Nastia Liukin.