The Nike ad. Just say those three words this week to a sports fan and it’s pretty much understood they’re talking about the Tiger Woods ad for the shoe and apparel company that debuted on SportsCenter and GolfChannel.
The social mediasphere immediately began to weigh in on its value or misplacement. By Thursday, I believe that at least 50% of my Twitter stream, sports and non-sports people alike mentioned something about the ad. That’s a boatload of tweets on one subject, and something I don’t think I’ve ever seen.
Naturally, I viewed it in a public relations sense. In a week that Woods returns to the professional golf tour after an early morning auto mishap in November sent his career to the curb for five months, I wasn’t excited about the ad.
At first glance, the Nike commercial, which is scheduled to air prior to The Master’s, is gripping. Woods stares straight ahead in black-and-white during which his late father’s voice basically asks about his thinking and if he’s learned anything. Knowing the gist of Woods’ relationship with his father, it grabs a viewer’s heart, even though we know Earl Woods’ words were spoken in another time and place. Emotion. That, of course, is what Nike wants.
That said, I think it was too soon for Nike to try to sell a self-proclaimed, humbled Woods. I realize and respect that the company has stood by its mega-million dollar investment, but since Woods only two days prior actually exchanged words with the press and the public, his sincerity has yet to be proven.
I reiterate from other posts that I don’t think Woods owes the world intimate details about his marriage or affairs. It’s more than obvious, however, that in light of sponsors’ reactions and his effect on professional golf’s image, his is still the sport’s most captivating. With that comes a responsibility to act like a trusted voice of a business. Woods is making a public effort, but he’s not there, yet. With the Nike ad, he takes an about-face on what he’s maintained to be private – his father and family – and pokes holes in his own messages. He essentially tells the media and public that much remains private except when it relates to selling something.
It goes against one of the top rules in public relations: be consistent.
According to CNBC sports business reporter, Darren Rovell, the ad will likely be viewed more than one million times in 24 hours. Nike, which enjoys cutting-edge messages, is undoubtedly thrilled. The commercial is provoking discussion like few other paid spots, and I admire it for its creativity.
From a PR standpoint, however, I think the Nike ad returns a viewers’ mindset to the salaciousness of a topic that I believe the Woods camp would rather silence, especially during the week of a major. The ad prompts discussion that may have otherwise been somewhat muted. Without the it, people would be talking more about Woods’ golf, which I think is more appropriate for a man who wants to turn the page in the court of public and professional opinion. Nike could have showed its support in other ways. This only brings about heated discussion hours before Woods attempts to turn the page on his career.
So, that’s my take as a PR agent. Do you think the Nike ad helps, hurts or doesn’t have any affect on the way people view Tiger Woods as he returns to golf after one of the most closely covered sports stories in history?