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Knight Liked Tiger's New Ad; Others Not so Sure
While Nike chairman Phil Knight said he liked the company's new commercial featuring Tiger Woods and the voice of his father Earl because it "certainly got people talking," other observers weren't quite as accepting.
The black-and-white spot only ran for a less than 24-hour period after its debut last Wednesday on ESPN and Golf Channel on the eve of the Masters, Woods' first tournament since last November following revelations of marital improprieties. It showed Woods staring at the camera and appearing to hear his late father speaking.
The dialogue includes these words from Earl Woods, who died in 2006: "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."
The spot received heavy criticism as being too soon, too macabre and in poor taste, but Knight - and a handful of other onlookers, and apparently John Q. Public - didn't see it that way.
According to reporter Cameron Morfit in his article on www.GOLF.com (http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1980933,00.html), Knight said, "We liked the ad. It certainly got people talking."
Knight added that he "seemed uncertain about the ad's future" in his comments to Morfit. Nike Brand President Charlie Denson said that the "controversial spot has run its course and will be replaced by a series of more light-hearted spots" with other Nike-sponsored golfers shot at Nike's testing facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. But Morfit noted Knight "didn't seem particularly interested to hear about those ads," adding, "I don't think they're going to stop talking about that first one."
Various reporters weighed in on the controversial spot. Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star wrote on April 10 (http://www.thestar.com/sports/golf/woods/article/793239--dimanno-tiger-woods-rebirth-brought-to-you-by-nike) that the Woods ad is "Nike playing the dead dad card for penitence and profit." At best, it is a "wincing act of self-flagellation, the son mutely acknowledging how much he's let down the one person he always strived to impress." It is "hard to believe Nike had the nerve to go there and that Tiger allowed it." If the commercial was a "genuine statement that Tiger Woods wanted to make, one more expression of remorse . . . then there were more pure vehicles for doing so."
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe called it a "real creep show" in his column (http://www.boston.com/sports/golf/articles/2010/04/11/nike_ad_is_a_real_creep_show/), adding that it was the "oddest, creepiest, kookiest, altogether ookiest half-minute of advertising ever to ooze Bloblike out of the boob tube." Dupont further opined: "Let's review: Son in deep moral turmoil checks off on a TV spot that culls out his dead father's words, quotes of long ago with no correlation to the son's litany of peccadilloes, in hopes of . . . what? Image makeover? I don't think so."
In the Detroit Free Press, columnist Drew Sharp wrote: "The athlete remains the greatest champion of our generation," and then, "The man remains a pig." As far as the ad, Sharp said it "was a tasteless attempt at promotional gain and personally offensive to any son who has lost his father but still treasures and counts on paternal input through a spiritual connection. Where's that demand for privacy as it pertains to the strongest personal bond a son will ever have?"
Another Detroit Free Press columnist, the inimitable Mitch Albom, criticized both Nike and Woods for the spot on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" on April 11. "This is how the world's best golfer and the world's biggest image-shaper have chosen to begin Tiger's rehab in the public arena, by using a ghost. It is tasteless and creepy. It's also sad that Woods would allow his father to be used as Obi-Wan Kenobi to save his marketing appeal."
About the only pundit who didn't find fault was John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gonzalez wrote on April 10 (http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/golf/90451329.html): "As unexpected and shameless as the ad might be, it's also brilliant . . . Rather than ignore the mess he created and wait for the world to forget (an unlikely scenario), he's chosen to address his issues and benefit from them . . . You may not like it, but it's hard to deny the shrewd calculation by the Woods camp. Everyone is talking about Tiger. Everyone is taking advantage of his misfortune. Now he's doing the same."
Woods himself said: "I think it's very apropos. I think that's what my dad would say . . . He's still helping me."
Regardless of the commentary, the ad - along with Woods' performance and demeanor in the Masters - helped his "Q rating." According to the N.Y. Times (http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/buzz-on-woods-improves-data-indicate/?scp=1&sq=Zeta%20Interactive%20&st=cse), Zeta Interactive, a company that monitors message boards, blogs and social media posts, uncovered data that indicated an "improvement in public perceptions of Tiger Woods, although he is nowhere near his pre-scandal levels of approval." Those numbers showed a revised 91% approval rating as opposed to 69% after the scandal.
Data shows that his first round in the Masters last Thursday "significantly helped his online reputation." Zeta reported that Woods' online reputation last Wednesday stood at 51% positive and 49% negative, but on Friday those figures had risen to 69% and 31%, respectively.
The Nike ad also helped the brand, according to Zeta. Recent positive ratings for the manufacturer of athletic equipment had hovered in the 68-73% range, but soared to 83% after the spot aired.