Tiger's New Nike Ad

Slate's Culture Blog
April 9 2010 12:51 PM

Tiger's New Nike Ad

As Tiger was tearing up the course at Augusta yesterday, his new Nike Golf ad was going viral. In the spot, Woods gazes blankly into the camera while being addressed by an unseen speaker: his dead father, Earl.

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What's in it for Tiger? Without speaking a word, he humanizes himself. Tiger's close bond with his demanding father always felt like the one warm, relatable dimension of an otherwise cold and remote personality. In a moment of crisis, it's no surprise that Tiger's PR team would decide to play the dad card even if that meant resurrecting a corpse. (By the way, is it me or is there something very Hamlet about the way a haggard Tiger gets interrogated by the ghost of his father on the misty ramparts of a golf course?)
 
What's in it for Nike? They couldn't possibly drop Woods as an endorser. There's far too much wrapped up in the relationship to part ways. Long after this scandal is mostly forgotten, Tiger will still be the world's most electrifying golfer. To sell low on him now would be awful business strategy.
 
Nike might have kept quiet, holding off on new Tiger ads for a while. But timidity is the opposite of what the brand stands for. Nike is all about provocative athletic supremacy. Remember, this is the company that had Charles Barkley boldly declare, " I am not a role model ."

Tiger's fall from grace may in fact be the best thing that ever happened to Nike's golf division. It brings new depth and edge to their leading man creating a fascinating, if distasteful, back story to play off and build imagery around. This new ad is more gripping and compelling than all of Tiger's other Nike spots combined. No doubt Nike's tennis marketers are now wishing Roger Federer would reveal some dark personality flaw.

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

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