SBD/April 8, 2010/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Nike Debuts New Tiger Spot Featuring Voice Of His Late Father

Watch Nike's Latest Tiger Woods Spot
Nike last night debuted a new commercial starring Tiger Woods and the "voice of his late father," one of "several new advertising pushes that suggest the golfer may be on his way to repairing his shattered image with corporate America," according to Suzanne Vranica of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The black-and-white ad features Woods staring into the camera while in the background, Earl Woods "seems to be talking to his son about the importance of taking responsibility for his actions." The voiceover says, "I want to find out what your thinking was; I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything." The spot, via Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, is Woods' "first new TV ad since unflattering revelations about his private life emerged last year." Nike broke the spot on ESPN and Golf Channel on the eve of his return to professional golf at The Masters, and it "will air until" this afternoon. A source said that the voice of Earl Woods, who passed away in '06, "was from old interviews," and both Tiger and his mother "approved the spot." The source noted that "several different versions of its spot were created, including one in which Mr. Woods gets ready to tee off as controversial opinions about his private life blare in the background." Vranica notes EA Sports also has launched a digital ad campaign featuring Woods as part of its promotion for the new "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online," while fashion brand Le Tigre has "adopted the golfer and his comeback" for a billboard debuting tomorrow in N.Y. But Woods faces a "long struggle to regain his previous luster." Davie-Brown Entertainment ranked Woods as the "11th most-effective product spokesperson before last year's disclosures," but he dropped to 2,256 in the most recent rankings in March (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/8).

UNIQUE AD GRABS ATTENTION: In N.Y., Gola, Siemaszko & Hutchinson note while the commercial "does not specifically address Tiger's serial infidelity, it harkens to his marital woes in the tone of his father's deep husky voice from the grave" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/8). Also in N.Y., Soltis & Li note Woods in the spot "seems on the verge of tears, blinking his famously wandering eyes several times" before the ad "ends with the camera silently fading to a Nike emblem." The commercial "has to be one of the oddest ads in the history of television." Adweek critic Barbara Lippert said that it is "smart for Nike to play its most powerful weapon: the dad card." She added, "I think it's totally brilliant for Tiger because it does all the rehabilitation for him and he doesn't have to say a word. He just has to stand there and look blank." However, Univ. of Hawaii marketing professor Dana Alden believes that it "might be just too weird." Alden: "There are more traditional ways of mending a public perception than this" (N.Y. POST, 4/8). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote under the header, "On The Eve Of The Masters, What An Odd, Disturbing Commercial" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/7). ABC's Jimmy Kimmel said, "That will make you want to buy shoes, won't it?” ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC, 4/8).

Earl Woods' Presence In Nike Ad Seen
As Exploitative By Some Columnists

DOES IT EXPLOIT HIS LATE FATHER? CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Ed Sherman writes, "It felt creepy to bring back Earl from the dead." However, the ad "does work on a certain level," as it "shows the powerful connection between Mr. Woods and his father" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 4/8). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes the ad "may be seen as exploitative of his father" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/8). Golf Channel's Rich Lerner: "I found that to be a little bit unsettling, primarily because you'd assume that the voice of his father ... was taken way out of context" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 4/8). In N.Y. Richard Sandomir: "Why did the son consent to having his father’s words repurposed to push not just a personal message, but also Nike Golf?" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/8). In Seattle, Greg Johns wrote the ad is "downright creepy." Johns: "It caused me to wonder how Tiger and Nike could use the departed Earl Woods, as well as Tiger's personal family issues, as an advertising gimmick" (SEATTLEPI.com, 4/7). CBS SPORTS' Mike Freeman writes under the header, "Tiger's New Commercial An Exploitative Disgrace." Freeman: "There's bad taste, and then there's using your dead father to move product. ... Woods needs to keep a low profile and play golf. He doesn't need to use his dead pops to sell more golf clubs" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/8).

RISKY MOVE FOR NIKE: The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir writes,"Nike refused to offer context for Earl Woods's words. When did he say it? What were the circumstances? He sounds disappointed in his son when he made these comments, but what had Tiger done? Earl, who died in 2006, couldn’t be addressing his son’s scandal. How deep did Nike dig to find these paternal nuggets to justify their use in an ad that debuted less than 24 hours before Tiger teed off Thursday at the Masters?" Nike wants Woods to "reclaim some sort of moral high ground so that he can return to regularly representing the company and the golf division that he is crucial to." But any "ethical authority Woods owned ... was lost amid the revelations of his many affairs." Sandomir: "If Nike felt it had to interrupt the conversation before Woods’s return to play, it should have given him his pal Charles Barkley’s old slogan: 'I am not a role model'" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/8). S.F. Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto said of Nike, "They're trying to recreate Tiger 2.0, and that is where we got into trouble the first time. He was such a manufactured public figure, as opposed to who he actually is, that people bought into the notion that he should be a role model" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 4/7). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Steve Schrader: "If Tiger wants us to believe he's sincere, is a Nike ad really the way to go?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/8).

TAKING A CALCULATED GAMBLE: ESPN's Mike Tirico said he was a "little bit surprised" by the timing of the ad, but it is "typical of the way Nike's done its advertising." Tirico: "You are going to stay with the guy more people are going to be watching now than ever before. If you've made that decision at the beginning, might as well … run through with it" ("GMA," ABC, 4/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's Simon Houpt writes Nike is "calculating that its risk is little, and its potential reward enormous, in leveraging its brand in aid of the Tiger Woods image." But in doing so, "they may only be minding their own asset." Sports Marketing Quarterly Editor Nancy Lough said, "They're staying true to what is the Nike motto -- they're willing to take risks, they're willing to make social statements." She added, "Nike's doing another huge service to Tiger by testing the waters, and I think you'll quickly find that if the results are positive, other companies will jump" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/8). Seton Hall Univ. advertising professor Walt Guarino said, "Nike is really going to bat for Tiger and truly protecting their long time investment in him. This is a gutsy approach, but I think the applause will outweigh the jeers. If for nothing else, it says Tiger and Nike are still on the same team" (CNBC.com, 4/7). Deutsch Inc. Chair & CEO Donny Deutsch said the ad is "one of the marketing strokes of genius of the last 10 years." Deutsch: "It would have been so easy for Nike to not advertise now and then six months from now show him playing golf. … Obviously, what he did was terribly wrong, but to have his father's voice as the conscience is brilliant. It is brave" ("Today," NBC, 4/8).

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHAT NIKE DOES BEST: Fox Business' Chris Cotter said, "Even though it might not be a great ad, I find it to be exactly what Nike does the best, maybe better than anybody." Cotter: "They put together controversial ads and they work because people talk about them" ("Varney & Company," Fox Business, 4/8). ESPN's Mike Greenberg, "You want to come back with a commercial that is going to get a lot of attention at the time when it's going to get the most possible attention. This is the way to do it" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/8). Eisner LLP Partner Tim Speiss: "Nike might be the smartest advertiser in the room" (Fox Business, 4/8). CNBC's Darren Rovell: "This is what Nike does. No company in the world but Nike would do something like this. People are talking about it as if it's news." Meanwhile, the ad ends with just a Nike logo and not its trademark slogan. Rovell noted, "It makes me think, 'Are they retiring "Just Do It" and Tiger,' because that certainly now is uncomfortable" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 4/8). Golf Channel's Lerner: "It would have been laughable had they put 'Just Do It' in there" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 4/8).

PURELY A BUSINESS DECISION: USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said, "This is all about Nike and its business. There's no ethics, there's no morals here, there's nothing. It's all about the dollar sign" ("GMA," ABC, 4/8). N.Y.-based Hanft Projects CEO Adam Hanft in an e-mail said the ad "pretends to be a quasi-religious, spiritual statement," while it actually is a "vile economic rescue mission." Hanft: "It's deeply manipulative. Shame on Nike" (NYTIMES.com, 4/8). Adweek's Lippert said of Nike, "They want to get this over with, address it in some way indirectly so that they can start selling clubs and pants and shirts and hats again, and they feel like this was the best way to address it" ("The Early Show," CBS, 4/8). Speiss said the ad "is all about the retail and driving consumer behavior, and everyone hopes -- especially the advertisers -- that he comes back and does really well" (Fox Business, 4/8).

Woods Has Been Showing A More
Fan-Friendly Side At The Masters This Week

CAN TIGER RESURRECT HIS BRAND? In London, Matthew Syed noted Woods formerly was a "potent, almost irresistible force in the contemporary marketplace," and he "hopes to be again." He "ticked all the right boxes: a mixed-race kid who achieved excellence amid the racial conservatism of modern golf." This was not "merely the American Dream, it was a kaleidoscope of resonance and meaning." What can be said "with certainty, however, is that it will not be possible fully to resurrect an image that has been smashed into a thousand tiny parts." Woods' earning power "will resume an upward trajectory once he returns to winning ways, but he shall never again cast such an irresistible and lucrative spell over the world." Syed: "The mystique is no more. The illusion has been shattered" (LONDON TIMES, 4/7). Woods did not play in the Masters Par 3 Contest yesterday, and in N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes Woods "needed to be at" the event. It would have been the "perfect opportunity for him to show how changed he is, how serious he is about acknowledging and appreciating the fans who've shown their undying support of him." Woods' absence was a "sign that he really hasn't changed and that he's not so serious about the things he preached in his press conference" (N.Y. POST, 4/8). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey notes the "new, charming Woods was on display during practice rounds" at Augusta National this week, and that is "going to take some getting used to, given that he was never a particularly warm person." Morrissey: "To believe in the new Tiger 2.0, you first have to get over feeling like a gullible fool. It's no easy thing" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/8).

KEEPING THE TEAM TOGETHER: SI's S.L. Price notes Woods' "old crew seems firmly -- and stunningly -- entrenched." Woods still is working with agent Mark Steinberg, publicist Glenn Greenspan, caddie Steve Williams and Tiger Woods Design President Bryon Bell. Price notes despite Woods' insistence that his management team knew nothing of his affairs, "some, it would seem, had an idea of their boss's behavior." As a result, "you'd expect a head or two to roll, but none has." It has become evident that Woods' comeback will "thrive on control." He has "hunkered down, forgoing the warmup tournament, the confessional with Oprah," and the statement announcing his return "contained only the most obvious admission: 'I still have a lot of work to do on my personal life'" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 4/12 issue).

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