Nike Treading on Dangerous, But Compelling Ground

As I blogged recently, I believe that the only way for Tiger to reclaim his vast empire of sponsorships is to take the public on his very private journey to recovery.  Based on his initial press conference, I was pretty convinced that this was advice Team Tiger wasn’t interested in hearing. But in light of his other recent interviews, especially his press conference earlier this week, I think they are back on track, and advertiser Nike puts a finer point on it with the release of this new ad.

Here’s my take: Is it creepy? Yep.

Is it intrusive and slightly manipulative? Yep.

BUT, does it feel REAL and authentic? Absolutely.

And that is exactly what will win back hearts and minds which ultimately wins back sponsors.  We didn’t say the path would be easy, comfortable or private.  But the good news is, Tiger is solidly on track to become a tragic, multidimensional hero.  Looking back, I’m surprised we bought the cardboard, one dimensional, squeaky clean version to begin with. But we wanted to believe it.  And now we need to believe something different.

On CBS’s The Early Show today, Barbara Lippert of Adweek gives a fantastic interview, and sums this up in tight, memorable terms.  For Nike, Tiger Woods is a brand that is “too big to fail,” and their approach to rebuilding his brand is spot on in my opinion.

The ad does something profound – while most of us don’t have a sexual addiction, we’ve all done things that were not in alignment with our own sense of integrity, and we’ve all heard the voice of our parents (living or dead) asking us, “Is this really who I raised you to be?”  Tiger’s silence and his painfully real facial expressions do something powerful – they give us insight into his very real pain, and help us to see ourselves in his struggles.

This was a huge risk for Nike, given the creepiness of resurrecting a deceased loved one, but in my opinion a risk well worth taking.