Gini Dietrich

Nike Takes Stance with Tiger Woods

By: Gini Dietrich | April 8, 2010 | 

I was going to blog today about Spirit Airlines charging $45 for a CARRY-ON bag (not checked luggage!!) and relate it back to Tuesday’s blog post about the New York Times charging for content. But then, whoa! I saw the new Nike ad which features a voice from the grave – Tiger Woods’s dad!

If you haven’t yet seen it, watch it now. Then we’ll discuss.

Minus the PR nightmare Tiger caused when he refused to talk about the scandals (see the blog post I wrote about it here), I’ve said all along that if his dad were still alive, this would NEVER have happened. I’m a big “if you don’t think your parents would approve, don’t do it” person and that has bothered me since last Thanksgiving when this all began to unfold.

But that’s neither here nor there. Bravo Nike! Bravo for taking a stance on showing that they still stand behind Tiger (who is, let’s be real, the greatest golfer of all time), but that they don’t condone his behavior. What a fantastic way to show the world they have integrity!

What do you think?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Gini, great post. I agree with your opinion re the way Nike is handling this situation. However, at the end of the day I could really care less about Tiger other than how he plays golf (though the SNL skit with the golf club bent over “his” head is a classic). I am no more or less likely to purchase a Nike product because of who advertises it or based on their misdeeds. I know, I’m just a boring results-oriented financial type.

  • Gini Dietrich

    I think the conversation about whether or not this actually sells something is a totally different one. The statistics show that only 14 percent of us buy a product because of an ad. I don’t think this is an ad to get people to buy something. I think this is an ad to show they have integrity, which falls under the heading of corporate social responsibility, not sales.

  • To me, this got more of an emotional response from me than any of the issued statements or apologies that have been made over the course of this scandal because it really addresses the heart of the issue – the disappointment that was felt by fans, the public, ect. and the debate over whether Tiger and his followers can move past that disappointment .

    Additionally, I think it is a great approach for Nike – at some point they had to acknowledge the events going on. I think they not only did it with integrity, but also did it in a way that lets the world know that they have addressed it and are moving forward – end of story. I agree – bravo Nike!

  • My first response was WOW that was hardcore on Nike’s part. Bringing back his dad from the dead to speak to Tiger’s behavior was striking and powerful.

    In the ad I hear Nike saying “We don’t condone your behavior Tiger, just like your dad wouldn’t.”

    I agree – Nike showing it’s integrity.

  • Michelle Rowan

    Who do you think he learned this behavior from? Tiger’s dad was notoriously unfaithful to his wife- showing Tiger a disrespect of family, his wife & marriage. I am not saying it’s ALL about his father, but I am sure this was happening when his father was alive, and would still have happened anyways!

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  • I think that this is an amazing ad from Nike. It attempts to bring Tiger back, so that he may be useful once again to Nike in promotions. It does this very tactfully and shows that they stand behind their star while also questioning “Did you learn anything?”

  • I definitely applaud Nike for what they are trying to accomplish here. For me personally, I’m beginning to look at the character of a company…what do they stand for beyond just selling me something. In this case (as it’s already been mentioned), Nike supports it’s star client but doesn’t condone his behavior and is telling the world about it.

  • I agree w/ Michelle on the character issue, Joe on the pragmatic. As far as the ad goes, classic manipulation, I find it offensive, to say the least. Nike showing its integrity? Not so much. Nike showing its marketing/PR smarts? Yes. Nike protecting its investment? Yes. Does Tiger have to sign off on this, using his dead father’s voice? Wow.

  • Gini Dietrich

    Nooooo! I don’t want to know he takes after his father on this. Maybe I’m naive, but I really believed he wouldn’t have had the affairs if his dad were alive.

    Nick…good point. It is a brilliant PR move. And I think it’s interesting that, as a woman, I find the message full of integrity. Maybe I need to go back to integrity school. 🙂

  • Gini–the ads that get us talking, as you have done w/ this post, have taken care of job one–I admire the ad, while feeling dirty at the same time.

  • I agree Gini, at least not to this scale.

  • I think this is a brilliantly done ad. It’s clear that it’s not meant to sell anything, but to show Nike’s support of their representative while not condoning his behavior. I don’t know anything at all about Tiger or his dad, but if it’s true that his dad was notoriously like this as well, then I feel the piece loses a bit of credibility. Still, though, as far as what Nike could do in this situation, I think it’s pretty high class. He’s a sports star and a pitch man – he doesn’t have to live a perfect life. Of course it helps, but hey, humans are messy, and we just do the best we can.

    The trouble with trying to hold celebrities up to a higher standard is that they fail. Well, so do a lot of people. If Nike (or whoever) said that they would drop someone because they didn’t live up to an established moral code, they may just have to fire 20% of their staff as well. Of course, probably not as extreme as Tiger’s case, but you get the picture.

    I think this is just about the best they could do in this situation, and I applaud them for it.

  • Deb Dobson

    Gini, outstanding post. I applaud Nike for taking a stand that does show they support their athlete, but not the behavior. I think it is a gutsy move and one that more companies should engage in. I was wondering if they would do anything public, and I think they did a good job. Regardless of whatever the behavior of Tiger’s dad was, I agree with you that Tiger would not have engaged in the lifestyle with dad around. Perhaps I’m naive too, but I don’t think so.

  • Rusty Speidel

    The ad touches that part of anyone who has struggled with something, with mistakes, and while saying “we don’t condone,” it also challenges you to remember what it felt like when you were being judged. I had an amazingly emotional reaction to it, and regardless of whether or not you think Tiger deserves all he is getting (I do), it also reminds us our our, collective, frail, flawed humanity. Now let’s play some GOLF!

  • Deb

    I watched the ad…hmmm, jury still out for me. To be honest, I had no feelings, one way or the other! I suppose it’s because I am just so sick of hearing about it, reading HUGE headlines,etc. I understand Nike has to take a stance, they have a BIG investment in TW & their golf mdse/products. Does it just cover their butt? As for Tiger’s dad…it was not common knowledge that he was a philanderer, as well, UNTIL, Tiger’s escapades shattered the headlines last Thanksgiving. Hmmmmm? That’s what has me puzzled.

  • Gini, Wow you’re tackling the big stuff with this. I am very mixed.

    On the one hand, I do give Nike props for not cutting and running, but that’s not altruistic or noble on their parts. It’s smart business. There have been other scandals from which “heroes” have come back. Nike is protecting its investment and rightly so. Plus they get brownie points for not be hypocritical and showing “integrity.”

    What I am unsure about is them making it “personal.” I get why they want to humanize the story, offer rationalizations and soften the ground. Not sure it’s their place or the right move. Why not?

    My other hand holds a strong belief that Tiger, his father, his family are just that: his. Tiger the Golfer is the commodity, the brand, the product. Folks aren’t buying shirts, golf balls and cars because of the man, the son, or the husband. He’s a public figure to be sure, and there are big responsibilities there (professional and personal); but he (and his personal, private life) are not public property.

    I ramble because I’m very ambivalent about it. FWIW.

  • I’ve heard it said that Tiger learned golf from his dad and his killer instinct from his mom. This ad would have been even more powerful (at least for me) if it had used his mother, but of course that would never happen. Her look and demeanor during his staged statement spoke volumes!

  • What I see what is faux contrition supported by crass commercialism. The spot elicits a range of reactions, but in the end, a pained-looking Tiger reacting to his dad’s words never would have seen the light of day if that conversation actually took place.

  • Brilliant ad, but I don’t look at it as any ethical stance by Nike (think sweat shops and child labor issues). I think this is pure manipulation by some very smart people. Nike is wise to stick by Tiger where other companies did not. This ad helps them to rationalize their decision and allows us to rationalize right with them. I don’t think any differently today about Tiger or Nike, other than to be reminded how superior Nike’s ad agency is.

  • by the way, went through an earthquake during my last comment. I didn’t stop writing. Just wanted you to realize my dedication 🙂

  • I was thinking about this from a different angle. Look at how much the Internet has changed the way big companies communicate with their customers. They created a 30 second ad, posted it on YouTube, and it has made it’s way around the globe in less than 24 hours. It’s freaking brilliant from so many different angles. But the best part? You don’t have to be Nike to create this kind of buzz!

  • “You don’t have to be Nike to create this kind of buzz.” That’s bullshit.

    Sorry, Gini, I normally agree with you, but this is crap. Let me dissect:

    Dead Father. Great, let’s use Earl to stir up some publicity, because he can’t muck up the Tiger brand.

    They weren’t doing anything for months and now, all of a sudden, they’re going to “stand behind” this golfer-turned-horndog right in line with his coming out party? Yeah, meanwhile, where were they way back when, when Tiger was going off the deep end and getting rehab.

    They have f—d up this crisis, and so has Tiger, but this is REALLY bad.

    However, since they are Nike, they can create this kind of “buzz” overnight. We mere mortals can’t — the advantage is a HUGE ad budget and a HUGE name and a HUGE scandal. And a Dead Father.

    This sucks. Sorry. This campaign just flat out sucks.

  • I agree with you, Dave. The British refer to acts like this ad as “cynical” which certainly sums it up for me–saw a headline which said “creepy”, ‘nuf said.

  • SOOOOO, It turns out that maybe Earl wasn’t even talking about Tiger and instead his wife in a 2004 interview. INTERESTING……..

  • bettina

    It’s classic ‘groundswell’. The crowd-sourcing of the clip made it a topic and we listened, watched and talked about it … is this destructive obsessive spin.
    Where are our values.

  • Bettina, values are overrated!!! That was so 2008.

  • Gini,

    I understand your perspective on this from a PR and business standpoint. Nike wanted to create buzz and they did. I however don’t believe this demonstrates corporate responsibility, but rather corporate irresponsibility, and I’m surprised Tiger’s camp went along with it.

    My first reaction to the commercial was disgust. Did I talk about it? Absolutely. Was it in a positive light? Definitely not. I think Nike’s reputation is as a classy brand that represents the best athletes in their respected sports. This commercial takes Nike into a realm where it doesn’t belong–the personal lives of its athletes. To me, Nike should stick to promoting the brand and the athlete playing his or her sport. If they don’t agree with something happening in an athlete’s private life, drop them! Don’t go diving into past archives and pulling up the voice of said athletes dead father just to try and humanize his mistakes. For me, that’s taking it too far and completely unnecessary. I’d rather see Tiger hitting a sweet shot only he could make while wearing Nike gear than this garbage. Keep it simple. Stick to sports.

    Just my two cents 🙂

  • I bit of a post-script, just watched Tiger being interviewed after his final round at the Masters. What a classless, self-centered _____. After seeing this interview I think Nike should reassess if it is riding the right horse.

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