Nike launches revolutionary Tiger Woods ad before Masters

The spot itself doesn’t tout itself as revolutionary – rather it is a somber acknowledgment of what happened and how to move forward. However, for those of us in advertising, this ad is the first time we have ever seen a sponsor launch an ad in support of a celebrity in the throes of controversy.

So everyone here at the agency had an impromptu discussion about the spot yesterday morning. Several different reactions and issues surfaced.

Earl Woods Voice

It’s an artful use of Tiger’s father’s voice, and eerily appropriate for the current situation. Also, the use of Earl’s voice could help prevent backlash because (1) the ad itself is already criticizing Tiger somewhat and (2) nobody wants to criticize the voice of someone that has recently passed. On the other hand, some might think it’s not in good taste. His father passed away several years ago and no one can say for sure what Earl Woods’ reaction would’ve been to Tiger’s behavior. Also, Earl was apparently unfaithful himself, which makes the spot ironic and deflates it’s meaning if such allegations are true.

The original quote wasn’t referring to Tiger

The original sound byte from Earl Woods was actually referring to himself, in the context of comparison with his ex-wife. Some of us felt that this was misleading to the viewer, who could assume that the quote was originally about Tiger. Others here felt that it was irrelevant what the original quote was for, and what is important is the meaning ascribed in this new context.

The Spot Exists in the First Place

Putting aside all discussion of the contents of the spot, the fact that Nike created it and put it out there is simply revolutionary. It’s the status quo for companies to distance themselves from celebrity and athlete spokespeople when they make a blunder like Tiger did. Nike was one of the only sponsors who didn’t drop Woods. That in and of itself was surprising, but to come out with a spot created to help relaunch their spokesperson into the world of golf and rebuild his reputation is entirely new ground. Think about it, no one has ever done anything like this on this level. Nike is taking an honest and powerful stand in support of Tiger Woods, a risk on some level, but ground breaking on another. You could make the argument that Nike was taking heat by sticking with Tiger Woods while the rest of his sponsors dropped him, so they made the spot to show that they don’t condone his behavior but still support him as an athlete. Regardless of the motivation, the spot coming from one of the world’s largest advertisers in direct support of an athlete and his personal situation is part of advertising history.

Miscellaneous Consequenses

This blog is getting long, so we will wrap it up. But we did want to mention that this ad spawned both good and bad consequences: the ad has become a huge talking point for media, and has also become very popular online. This ad will probably see twice the media impressions that Nike actually paid for. That said, there have also been negative parodies, some of which we think are poignantly amusing.

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