As Tiger Woods Returns to Golf, Nike, Others Embrace Their Links
A scene from the new black-and-white Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father
April 6, 2010
Originally published on theWSJ.com
Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father star in a new commercial from Nike Inc., one of several new advertising pushes that suggest the golfer may be on his way to repairing his shattered image with corporate America.
Nike aired Wednesday a black-and-white TV spot with Mr. Woods looking into the camera. In the background, the voice of his father, Earl Woods, seems to be talking to his son about the importance of taking responsibility for his actions.
The ad ends with the image of the sports-apparel maker's trademark swoosh.
The spot, created by Wieden + Kennedy, is the golfer's first new TV ad since unflattering revelations about his private life emerged last year. It is expected to run on Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and Comcast Corp.'s Golf Channel. Nike says the ad will air until Thursday afternoon.
A new black-and-white TV ad for Nike features Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father. Video courtesy of Nike.
"We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive golf, the ad addresses his time away from the game using the powerful words of his father," Nike said in a statement.
The ad was filmed several weeks ago at Isleworth Country Club, a golf course near Mr. Woods' home in Florida, people familiar with the matter said.
The voice of Earl Woods, who died in 2006, was from old interviews, one person familiar with the matter says, adding that Mr. Woods and his mother approved the spot.
Mr. Woods wasn't available for comment.
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, the person familiar with the matter says. "Tiger just needs to get back to golf," someone chimes as a focused Mr. Woods looks down the fairway.
Videogame maker Electronic Arts Inc. also launched a campaign this week featuring Mr. Woods. The online effort by its EA Sports, which has had a relationship with Mr. Woods for about 12 years, is using the golfer's image to promote its latest game, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online." One banner ad shows Mr. Woods, in his familiar red shirt, doing a celebratory fist pump.
Meanwhile, Le Tigre, a polo-shirt maker with no financial ties to Mr. Woods, has adopted the golfer and his comeback for a billboard it says it plans to hang in New York City Friday. The billboard features a red Le Tigre golf polo and the tag line "Golf's Original Tiger. For Those Who Play A Round." In December, it ran a billboard that said: "Golf Needs a Tiger. Let's Get Back on Course."
The ads coincide with Mr. Woods's much-anticipated return to golf at the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., where he is expected to tee off on Thursday. They are the first sign that marketers are once again willing to re-embrace the golfer after his once-pristine public image was sullied by revelations about his extramarital affairs.
Since the Nov. 27 car accident that led to intense scrutiny of his personal life, Mr. Woods's endorsement career, which brought him an estimated $100 million annually, has unraveled as advertisers such as global consulting firm Accenture PLC, AT&T Inc. and PepsiCo's Gatorade sports drink severed ties with him. Other companies, such as Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette pulled back on using him in ads.
Even the companies that stuck by him have been treading carefully. EA Sports says it did plenty of market research, including online focus groups. It also surveyed gamers testing a beta version of its game to gauge consumer attitudes toward Mr. Woods as it prepared its marketing campaign.
Its findings: "People were sensitive and caring about his wife and children but still recognized that he is the world's greatest golfer, and they were looking forward to his return," says EA Sports President Peter Moore. Mr. Moore says he has "no reservations" about using Mr. Woods's image.
Not everyone is cranking up their Tiger marketing. Luxury watch maker Tag Heuer, a unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which did an entire marketing campaign in 2009 when Mr. Woods returned to golf after a knee injury prompted him to take an eight-month hiatus, says it won't be doing any ads to celebrate his return this time. "We don't have anything running with Tiger," says a Tag spokeswoman.
Mr. Woods addressed his endorsement career earlier this week at a news conference, saying he understood why some marketers severed ties with him. "Of course. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. And I totally understand why they would do that," he told reporters. He said he was hopeful he could prove to other companies "that I am a worthy investment; that I can help their company, help their company grow and represent them well."
The press conference "was the first step, and the ads are the next step in the road back," says Kevin Adler, president of Engage Marketing, a sports-business consulting firm. "The bigger step, which will take longer, will be him signing a non-golf-associated endorsement deal. I don't see that happening in the near future," Mr. Adler says.
Research suggests that Mr. Woods faces a long struggle to regain his previous luster. Davie-Brown Entertainment, an Omnicom Group Inc. unit that tracks celebrities' appeal using online consumer polls, says Mr. Woods was the 11th-most-effective product spokesperson before last year's disclosures, ranking alongside Bill Cosby and Paul Newman. In the firm's most recent ranking compiled on March 22, Mr. Woods was No. 2,256—on a par with exercise guru Richard Simmons and talk-show host Kathy Lee Gifford.
Matt Fleming, a senior account manager at Davie Brown says," We have never seen an athlete's score drop like this."
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