Creepy or Creative?

April 14, 2010

Tiger Woods was disappointed in his game at The Masters, but I’d say he showed much better on the course than he did in the new Nike commercial that debuted the day before the tournament.  If you haven’t seen it, Tiger stares solemnly into the camera while listening to the voice of his deceased father.  The spot continues to generate a ton of buzz, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when the majority of people describe it as more creepy than creative or courageous.

The folks at Nike found themselves in a tough position when the Tiger scandal broke.  With Woods serving as the face of the Nike Golf brand, they had little choice but to stick with him and try to weather the storm.  This is a textbook case study illustrating the dangers of aligning your brand too closely with a celebrity spokesperson.  One misstep and it can all come crashing down.

I believe tackling Tiger’s issue head on was the right thing for Nike to do.  They couldn’t just keep pumping out fresh creative like nothing ever happened and their golf business probably couldn’t afford to wait it out. In addition, they’ve had success with this proactive approach in the past – including the Charles Barkley “I am not a role model” ad.  The strategy is smart – it’s the execution of the Tiger spot I take issue with.

The words of Earl Woods were manipulated and taken completely out of context. Plus, using the voice of a dead man to address his son’s sex addiction doesn’t feel quite right.  It was predictable that Tiger would claim he lost his moral compass when his father died.  And frankly, if he wants to play that card, I’ll let him get away with it.  It is much harder to swallow when you bring Nike into the mix.  I find it impossible to see contrition when I know that rebuilding Tiger’s image is all about dollar signs. 

Creepy or creative, what do you think?