Does Tiger's new ad work?

After saying nearly nothing about its star athlete for months, Nike comes back with a new ad featuring Tiger (and Earl) Woods.

By Kim Peterson Apr 8, 2010 2:06PM
Tiger Woods. Credit: (© Hans Deryk/Reuters)Nike (NKE) sat tight while the Tiger Woods spectacle unfolded, offering only vague statements of support as mistress after mistress came forward with sordid allegations of infidelity.

Now, after months of near silence, the company has unveiled a new commercial starring the golfer. And the reaction to the spot (included below) seems to be mostly negative.

Tiger doesn't say a word in the advertisement. He doesn't do much, either, except look soulfully at the camera. In the background is the voice of his late father, whose comments are supposed to have more weight, presumably, in light of all the scandals.

"I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?" Earl Woods asks.

Post continues after video:
Very good questions, indeed. But Tiger Woods doesn't answer, inadvertently offering us another reminder of how much has gone unanswered and unexplained.

As Kyle Foster of the Chicago Sun-Times notes, the first ad featuring post-scandal Tiger was bound to be awkward. But invoking the golfer's late father gives the spot a crassness that goes beyond anything we saw in Tiger's infamous text messages.

"There's also a feeling--shared here--that the spot insults our intelligence," Foster writes. "I mean, if you're truly trying to be repentant and change, wouldn't you do it more quietly? Not in front of millions of TV viewers, using your dead father's voiceover in a commercial peddling your product."

Other commentators are equally critical. " Selling shoes is one thing, but selling moral rehabilitation is better left to those who do it on Sunday," writes Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press.
"If Woods is feeling real, true shame -- not regret that he got caught, not regret that his golf game has suffered, but real sorrow over what he's done to his family -- then he might be able to fix the mess he's made of his life," writes Tracee Hamilton of the Washington Post. "But his shame is his; it shouldn't be used to sell golf shirts."

So what does this all say about Nike? Well, lots of people are talking about the company today -- and perhaps that says all we need to know.

Ad industry observers say the spot is manipulative -- on several fronts.

"On the one hand, it's sort of disgusting and on the other hand, I thought it was somewhat of a coup for Nike sort of sadistically leveraging what's going on in Woods's life right now for their own gain," Steve Hall, who writes the AdRants blog, told The Washington Post.

Former advertising executive Donny Deutsch, however, called it "stunningly brilliant" to use Earl Woods as the voice of conscience surrounding Tiger's actions. "It is brave, it is a stroke of genius," he said on the Today show. "There is such a creative bravery to it."
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