Nike's Congratulatory Ad For Tiger Could Be Example Of Too Much, Too Soon
Nike’s “exuberance over Tiger Woods rising again to No. 1 in the world is understandable,” but its choice of “a celebratory quotation, however, leaves a lot to be desired,” according to Lynn Zinser of the N.Y. TIMES. Woods' quote that Nike “chose to emblazon over a photo” of him lining up a putt is “Winning takes care of everything.” It is something Woods “often uses when asked about his ranking and other such golf-related matters.” In context, it is a “perfectly acceptable thing to say.” He “never used it when being asked about his flotilla of reported mistresses,” but that is the “kind of context it takes on when your major sponsor splashes it over your face in an advertisement with no other words or mitigating sentiments.” Nike Golf Global PR Manager Beth Gast in a statement said, “When asked about his goals such as getting back to No. 1, he has said consistently winning is the way to get there. The statement references that sentiment and is a salute to his athletic performance.” But Zinser wrote the “problem is, the ad doesn’t come with that context,” and the sentiment “rubs a lot of people the wrong way” (NYTIMES.com, 3/26). CNBC’s Suze Orman said the ad was a “very, very large mistake." Orman: "Like many of these large corporations, they don’t think about something. They just go ahead and they do it and they slap it up." She does not believe Woods personally had "a lot do with that by any means," but Nike was "very silly that they did that” (“Piers Morgan Tonight,” CNN, 3/26). HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell said the ad is "not humble” and it “sounds like more bragging” (“Showbiz Tonight,” HLN, 3/26). CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb: “It’s not the right message. People don’t want to hear it. It’s not the right narrative for his comeback” ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 3/26).
EXPERTS EXAMINE AD: Sports Business Group President David Carter said, “For some people, this will be seen as another case of an athlete who doesn't understand how a big part of society views what he's done." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said, "This ad is certainly very Nike. Things are falling together, and he has new stability off the course. But some have still written him off as yesterday's hero" (USA TODAY, 3/27). N.Y.-based branding firm Landor Associates Managing Dir Allen Adamson said that the ad “signals that Nike believes it is time Woods … is back in the spotlight.” Adamson: "They're looking at this and saying, 'Time has passed, he's winning again, it's time to turn up the volume on our association.' But it's risky when you associate with a celebrity only based on winning or losing." Marketing consultant Laura Ries was “more positive on the move.” She said, "The reality is what he said is true. Whether or not they should have said it in an ad is another story" (AP, 3/26). AD AGE’s Michael McCarthy noted crisis PR expert Mike Paul “thinks it's dangerous and ‘brazen’ for Woods and Nike to risk a backlash from fans and media at a time when both their brand reputations are rebounding.” Paul: "This could get fans fired up. Woods is better than that. Nike is better than that. … Every human being who has a heart, as well as a head, understands that's its always about more than just winning” (ADAGE.com, 3/26).
OUT OF THE WOODS? MARKETING WEEK’s Sebastian Joseph cited sponsorship experts as saying that Woods’ return to No. 1 in the world rankings for the first time since ‘10 is “a ‘milestone’ in the push to rehabilitate his tainted brand but it is not enough alone to tempt sponsors into backing him once again.” Industry experts said that Woods’ “reluctance to get carried away” with his win this past weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is “likely to be reflected by potential backers who will wait to see whether he wins next month’s Masters tournament before making a move.” Synergy Sponsorship Deputy Managing Dir Dom Curran: “It will take corporate America sometime to get over the scandal of three years ago. A lot of brands got burned as a result so I don’t think they’ll jump in with Woods anytime soon. There’s no doubt him moving back to world number one is a milestone in his brand rehabilitation but it will influence the more consumer-facing brands than the corporate ones who can bring more humour and humanity to his brand now he’s back on top” (MARKETINGWEEK.co.uk, 3/26).
THE ROAR OF TIGER: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the golf world is “a more interesting place with Woods as king of the hill again.” His golf game “is back, and this makes his sport a lot cooler,” as he “boosts golf when he’s playing well the way that no one else can.” Woods at No.1 “just feels right.” When Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer or Lee Westwood are “at the top of that list, it just doesn’t seem as important” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/27).