Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nike: move on.

Today, on the eve of Tiger Woods' long-anticipated return to professional golf at the Augusta Masters, Nike released a television commercial.

The ad, called "Earl and Tiger," uses the recorded voice of Woods' late father questioning his son's judgment, over an image of Tiger looking ashamed. In "On Par," The New York Times' golf blog, Richard Sandomir reports the ad first ran this evening at 6 p.m. Eastern on ESPN, and will run only until tomorrow afternoon.

I think it's awful.

Move on.

I and I'm sure hundreds of others in the PR industry have blogged at length about the need to get out in front of an issue that is destined to become a PR problem.

Think David Letterman vs. John Edwards. Letterman admitted to his infidelity before it hit the media, and the story was short-lived (and, frankly, was mostly about how well he handled the PR). Edwards denied, ran, denied, hid, denied, mocked the media outlets uncovering the truth, and denied some more before being spectacularly dragged into admitting it, creating a media circus for himself in the process.

"Tell the truth, tell it first, tell it all" is what we say in issues management. It hurts in the short term, but makes for a much longer long term.


Once an issue has been beaten to death and into the afterlife, as the Tiger-Woods-is-a-no-good-philanderer story surely has, you let it go. You move on to your messages.

For Nike, that means you let Tiger be a golfer again.

Sandomir's "On Par" post quotes Bob Dorfman, the executive vice president of Baker Street Advertising, as saying that "Nike had to address, or at least, allude, to Woods’s personal problems. “They’d take a lot of flack if they didn’t,” he said."

I disagree.

Tiger was decked out in what The Guardian's Lawrence Donegan called his "his Nike-branded sackcloth and ashes" at his news conference at Augusta earlier this week, as he addressed reporters' questions about his return to the game as well as the scandal.

Nike's continued sponsorship of Tiger throughout recent months has communicated the company's commitment to Tiger, the golfer. It doesn't need to make any more comment than that.

Woods' return to golf is the opportunity to turn the page, to re-build Tiger's brand as much as is possible. Sure, the media are likely to keep flogging the sex addiction story -- but by now, it's lost its shock value. People are tired of hearing about it. People want to move on; and as soon as the tournament begins, they may just be more interested in how he plays than how humiliated he is.

That's where Nike should be focusing.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (resubmitted for spelling)
    I respectfully disagree. Tiger Woods is the most valuable brand asset Nike has had since Michael Jordan, (maybe more valuable) and there's no way they could relinquish him outright, as you pointed out. But that being said, I don't think Nike could realistically pick up where they left off with Tiger and not have a torrent of tongues wagging about dodging the issue.

    I think it's fair to say that Tiger never really took ownership of the story, never effectively controlled the message and has suffered dearly for it. But better late than never, right? Tiger is in the very unique position that he has Nike's incredible brand management team at his disposal, who can help him craft the perfect message to take ownership of the story once and for all and do so with paid advertising in front of a target audience of millions. And at the same time sell some merchandise as well.

    I can't think of anyone who was in Tiger's shoes (and this includes the former president of the United States) who has leveraged such a unique opportunity to shut a story down once and for all. Guaranteed, tongues will wag about this for a bit, people will get back to watching him Golf, all will be forgotten and Nike can get back to cashing in on the equity they've built with Tiger.

  3. I went running shoe shopping with my wife yesterday and she bought a pair of Saucony. Just sayin'.

  4. Hey Dave,

    You make some great points. But if Nike felt it had to get on the record denouncing Tiger's infidelity, I think the right time would have been back in February, when he finally admitted to it.

    As Tiger begins to try to put this mess behind him (publicly, at least), I think Nike, assuming its goal is to rehabilitate his image, should be helping him change the topic of conversation. Or, at least, the tone of that conversation.

    Tiger can’t undo what he’s done… but I don’t think it helps to keep volunteering for public humiliation over it at this point. If some Nike customers aren’t yet convinced he’s sorry, or can’t get beyond what he did, I doubt there’s much that could persuade them now. It may just take time.

    It’s enough flagellation, I say: let’s start re-building.

    We can't expect the media to turn the page for Tiger – their audiences love to see celebrities in the muck, and they’ll keep dishing it up as long as there’s somebody buying.

    But Nike has the opportunity to take the lead here. It has stuck by Tiger throughout this whole mess, allowing him to wear its brand as he was vilified by the world, and as he apologized for what he did to deserve it. I think now is the time for Nike to say, “Hey, world, why don’t we talk about golf.”

    Next time you're on campus let's disagree over coffee!

  5. If some one uses Nike gear on the course or on the courts, they're not going to change what they're comfortable with just because of what Tiger did. I think NIke is just trying to acknowledge the issue with out really commenting on it. The only people who are going to stop buying Nike products are those who wear it for the sake of it and by some rift in the space time continuum feel that their morals will appear compromised if they do. This way, with the add, it shows repentance, and the admittance of wrong on Tigers part, and Nike supporting him to be a better person

  6. I thought it was a painfully bad commercial. Nike is keeping Woods on, so they should stop talking about this controversy, and stick to advertising shoes and talking about his golf career, like you said.

  7. I like this one better