Restoring the Brand of a Fallen Superstar

You probably thought this was going to be yet another article about Lance Armstrong. No. Amidst all the hubbub over Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and the questions of will he or won’t he be able to come back, another fallen superstar has quietly (and arguably) completed his brand restoration.

Tiger Woods is back—the old, likeable, marketable Tiger.

Nike Golf smartly paired their newly signed superstar Rory McElroy with Tiger Woods in this fun “No Cup is Safe” ad. And Tiger looks as relaxed and friendly as ever.

Nike is the “too big to fail” behemoth of the marketing world. They remain pretty much untouched by scandal by knowing when to drop an athlete and when to hold on. They dropped Lance once he admitted to doping.

With Tiger, Nike didn’t waver. They were one of the few sponsors not to drop the big-name golfer after the embarrassing sex scandal that ended his marriage and left his career as one giant question mark.

Tiger, at the time, was Nike Golf. So, you can say (and I did in my 2010 blog post) that Nike didn’t really have a choice. They had to stick with their moneymaker.

They released a creepy commercial that featured Tiger’s father speaking while we were left looking at the golfer’s grim face. It reeked of “feel sorry for me” and had people all over the Internet talking. A risky move, but one that ultimately paid off.

This latest commercial is Nike’s smartest move yet on Tiger’s brand comeback journey. Pairing Woods with one of the most likeable players out there—Rory McElroy—was a flat-out genius move.

Watch the ad, and notice the old Tiger moves—the flashy smile, the bouncing of the golf ball on the club and then launching it, the trick shots and sly “you can’t touch me” look—are back.

Even if the two top golfers weren’t actually together when filming this ad, this pairing is one we will all look forward to seeing again and again—on the course and in commercials.

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