Nike's Tiger Woods Ad: Too Soon?

<a href=Tiger Woods" />

Here's one we didn't see coming: The first Nike ad to feature Tiger Woods since his post-scandal return to golf aired tonight during the Masters. And it features the voice of Woods' father. His dead father.

The ad was created by longtime Nike collaborator Wieden + Kennedy. It was shot on the golf course in Woods' Windermere, Florida neighborhood. And we're pretty sure the only direction given to Woods was this: "Look sad. Look really, really sad." In case you can't hear exactly what Earl Woods, who died in 2006, is saying, it's this:

"Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?"

Nike was the only brand to stand firmly by Woods after his admitted infidelities and a stint in rehab had everyone from Gatorade to Accenture ditching him like a drive in a water hazard. But cashing in on his redemption using the unwitting voice of his father? It's risky. If it's successful, Nike is taking a hard line: They're the only sponsor who can stick with Woods until (if!) his somber image is fully repaired. If this flops, it's not likely that any new sponsors will be lining up at his door.

Anyway, we'd much rather have heard the voiceover of a hysterical Elin Woods on that fateful Thanksgiving night, as re-enacted in a recent South Park. That would have at least been more realistic.

Or maybe using deceased people in ads is a trend that we just haven't warmed up to yet. Case in point: This DirecTV ad featuring a reanimated Chris Farley a full 12 years after his death.

What do you think about Earl making a cameo in his son Tiger's ad?

Most Innovative Companies - 2010: Nike

Add New Comment


  • Gail Sideman

    Ok -- sorry everybody...the server was working so slowly I didn't think my post was going through so I refreshed -- about a dozen times. Sorry for the repetition.

  • Gail Sideman

    This is an ad from the Nike mold, Alissa. (Maybe Tiger would have rather used Barkley's verbiage?!?)

    It's an effective ad for Nike, because as Brian wrote earlier today, the country, if not the world, is talking about it. I, however, didn't think the ad was good for Tiger from a PR standpoint ( Nike could have made its presence known without controversy. It returned people's minds, that for the most part, had moved onto golf, to the "transgressions."

    Tiger, despite his stronghold on a lot of things, may have agreed to such a concept just to stay in the good graces of a company that stood by him when others didn't. That, or maybe he continues to get questionable advice from those around him.

    Regardless, he's playing pretty good golf heading into Day 3 of The Master's, and I think that's all he and many of his fans, care about. Oh, and Nike probably likes that a lot, too.

  • Alissa Walker

    What awesome comments! It may not be as innovative as we all think. Someone pointed out to me that Nike has taken this approach before: Remember when Charles Barkley's outrageous off-court behavior got him in trouble? Nike backed him up with the "I am not a role model. I'm not paid to be role model" ad back in 1993:

  • Martin Ballantine

    Really nauseous piece of work. Cynical and ghastly. Ego ego ego - both from him, Nike and the agency. I dread to imagine the session where they brainstormed this one. People are saying Nike/Tiger are getting a lot of buzz out of this and implying it must be good...well, sorry, it just ain't. He should have just slunk back into the game and got on with can anyone (or him) ever say 'it's his life, leave him alone, he's/I'm just a golfer' now? Truly awful.

  • Christopher Williams

    Bad taste or not, companies don't seem to care about anything these days except getting people to talk.. just like we are right now.

    I'm convinced that product defects (see Toyota) are really the only ingredients of bad/negative PR these days, everything else seems to be positioned perfectly to make people stop, look, and watch. Whether they hate it or love it they still talk about it, and what PR person who has (inevitably) heard some "any PR is good PR" type of statement wouldn't want that??

  • David Osedach

    Tiger's ad was a big risk. But the timing was genius! Play Tiger. Play!

  • Jamey Boiter

    actually, alissa, i think this was incredibly well done. as a brand strategist, i don't think its about the money or selling anything. i think it's about damage control and a company trying to protect its own brand reputation. nike's, not tiger wood's. notice the commercial used only the swoosh identity, and not the now famous "tw" sub-brand for tiger woods. their primary spokesperson messed up badly, but they still believe in his ability as one of the world's best athletes, and arguably the best golfer in history. but they need to let it be known it was all him, not them, and express in a way that they could their disappointment, but their willingness to keep going.

    they could have shown the great swing, the beautiful "almost heaven" grounds of augusta national, and the fist-pumping spirit that won 14 majors. but no, they chose to have his father's voice questioning his decision-making. earl woods was the guiding force in making tiger woods tiger woods. he planted the truths of the brand in his son's head from almost birth, and tiger has been a lost soul without his father's guidance. he learned to win without him, [remember he missed the cut at the '06 us open right after his father's death] but he said himself he wasn't enjoying it. perhaps this is what's really going on in his mind right now. tiger disappointed so many people, but none more so that his father, he thinks. because this was not part of the plan - part of the what the brand was suppose to be. it exposes woods in a way he's never been seen on tv. [except maybe when he broke down after winning the british open.]

    it may be creepy to some people, but i think it will be remembered as being a very courageous thing for a brand to do in the face of the situation. maybe even brilliant. if tiger is sincere, and truthful going forward.

    great post!

  • Dave Brown

    ah, the cycle continues. Someone innovates, and others cry foul. In the end, the envelope is stretched, and the "others" forget that they ever questioned it. At least not until a political opportunity arises requiring the exploitation of a little piety...

  • Matthew DeBusk

    I had no idea it was Earl's voice when I saw the commercial on TV. Now that I do it takes the meaning to a new level.

    It reminds us this guy is human, that he understands the devastation he has caused to his family, and that Tiger has his father to help guide him through the good times and the bad. I think it's a tremendous ad.

  • Robie Wood

    While a bit eerie and a tad premature, Nike was wise to stick with him. Even though his comeback is from a debacle of his own making, the sports media will play it up like he's a conquering hero. All the endorsement deals will come rushing back but Nike gave themselves the upper hand in any future contract negotiations. They can always pull the "we stuck by you" card when appropriate. Pretty shrewd.

  • Sylvia Lafair

    I wonder what Tiger's dad was really talking about, certainly not his son's sexual conduct, probably his golf swing! This is a blatent misuse of a dead man's comments. Tiger, stands there looking like a dead man walking.

    What are we to learn from watching this ad other than to see how far we, as a culture, have fallen in bad taste.

    We all hear the voices of the dead in our heads. Parents who are deceased
    live in all of us. In the play "Into the Woods" there is a scene where a son has a conversation with his dead father who states "We die but we dont" and that is so true.

    Tiger has work to do. It is private work. If there is a need for redemption with his dad let him find a quiet time and place to rethink his behavior patters. What's next, having his kids in an ad with an overvoice asking daddy why he cheated on mommy!

  • Matthew Jonas

    Was advertising ever moral? Last time I checked it was our job to pull at consumers emotional heart strings in order to compel them to desire and purchase things that they did not know that they needed. Fear and guilt have long been used to engender consumer interest in past executions by many brands. The use of personalities alive and dead has never been off limits before. Why should Tiger/Nike be a different case?

    I actually think this is pretty brilliant. At the end of the day, this is a human being (although his tournament performance may suggest otherwise) who made a mistake and is now dealing with it. Just like the rest of us, he is facing the consequences of his actions and trying his best to move forward. This spot basically outs the fact that despite peoples desire to make sports heroes into something larger than life, they are simply people who are good at one game but trying to be better at the game of life. It is real, it is human and I think it is the essence of what nike tries to be about. No excuses. No forgiveness. Just deal with it.

  • Bobbi Woods

    I think the two YouTube vids of ads posted here are as different as day and night. They contrast not only because one is a fun memory of a great comedy duo on-screen, in one of the cuter scenes of the movie, but because the other is just a really sad image of a man who stares blankly and forlornly at the screen. What does he want from us, the viewer/consumer? I would have rather seen the tired, typical token athlete ad, complete with powerful swing shot, than this (if anything). Like Tim said, it's just embarrassing "soul-selling". Money is sick. And Nike is sick for putting out this ad. Tiger Woods is not Jesus Christ. The voice-over of his deceased father only makes the ad remind me more of what he did to disgrace and dishonor his family and wife. Why this infidel is being redeemed by a stupid large corporation is beyond me.

  • Howard Dinin

    Oh come now. They've been letting us "see" dead people in commercials for years... They had Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner as I recall, and that was 13 years ago. There are several landmark court cases involving the use of the "image" of dead movie stars... Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable in advertising and other places. Which has led to the macabre phenomenon of these individuals' estates being paid money for the use of such images... Surely Fast Company knows that "business ethics" is an oxymoron. And throw in dignity, humility, and respect while you're at it as for what doesn't go with "accepted business practice." What the hell? I suppose anything goes. I don't watch TV, so I couldn't care. This is all quite amusing. What I'd like to know is, did Tiger's dad's estate get a talent fee? And was he paid "scale?"

  • Prince Campbell

    I think it's the perfect way to end this whole mess. Using his personal problems to sell shoes. Kinda sick. But very now. Pitch perfect. Probably the beginning of the turnaround he needs.

  • Joshua Katinger

    Skeevy...that's all I can call it....both the Tiger ad and the Farley ad. I think Tiger should have nipped this one in the bud...and Spade should be ashamed. Skeevy.

  • LA Lynch

    Forget Nike! Frito-Lay is 'missing the boat' here. Why not just slap his face on a bag of 'CHEETOS'!

  • Chuck Blouse

    I would just like to hear Tiger answer the question. Did you learn anything?