If you ran Nike, how would you start advertising with Tiger?

Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m the CEO of Nike, and it’s December 2009. I have a decision to make. What do we do with Tiger Woods?

What I’d like to do is make him fly, no drive to Oregon in his messed up Escalade with a scarlet “T” painted on the top and every side. I’d make him meet me in my office at 7 a.m., and I’d show up to finally talk to him at 4 p.m.

I’d tell him if he wants to keep his contract, he would have to clean the toilets throughout the company—at our headquarters and at every store.

When all was said and done, I would keep Tiger as the face of Nike Golf. Really, what other choice do I have?

In a way, I’m lucky because I’m not the CEO of Accenture or any of the other sponsors who dropped him or put Tiger ads on hold. These companies (even Gatorade) all relied on Tiger more as a role model than as a golfer, and though we (at Nike) do rely on his image and likeability, we’re going to be ok. Once Tiger gets back to golf full time, the buyers of his merchandise will be back.

I’m lucky again because my target audience is men, who do not attach emotionally to the man or his marriage. They just want to golf like him (and golf with him).

EA Sports, which also kept Tiger (and also relies on him for his golf, not his reputation), did research and ran focus groups (WSJ) to see what consumers were thinking.

They found that: “People were sensitive and caring about his wife and children but still recognized that he is the world’s greatest golfer, and they were looking forward to his return,” says EA Sports President Peter Moore.

So, now we’re in present time and I have to take this information (still as Nike CEO) and figure out how we start advertising again.

Do I decide that my first commercial will show a constipated-looking Tiger not saying a word while his dead father’s voice plays? Hell no! It reeks of “feel sorry for me,” and a smug irony—did they forget Tiger’s father wasn’t faithful either?

I would focus on the golf. Instead of showing Tiger, I’d show past golf shots, probably with the sound of the cheering crowds. I’d show the shoes as he blasted a ball off the tee. And at the end, I’d focus on humility and contrition. I’d show Tiger, not in his typical championship red, but in softer colors. He would say something serious and apologetic, but hopeful.

I’d start running it a few days into the Masters. Maybe Tiger would say simply, “Thank you…for welcoming me back.”

Why? Go back to the focus groups. Golf is going to save his image, his ad power, not any manufactured sentiment.

Now I’m back to being me. And, as the new awful ad says, I want to find out what your feelings are. What would you do if you ran Nike?


Photo credit: JLMitch

For a different advertising comeback story, read Beneath the Brand. For other views on Nike’s new Tiger ad, check out the Planet Money blog or Matt Singley’s blog.



  1. dododan · April 13, 2010

    Great post. You hit the nail on the head with target audience. Men like Bold. Bold worked for Barkley so perhaps Nike are betting on a tried and tested strategy.

    • ctmarcom · April 13, 2010

      Thanks, Dan. I’m glad you posted a comment because that gave me a chance to read your blog too. I especially love your last line–“On the other hand, perhaps my golf shoes just need to be good golf shoes, irrespective of what’s made me buy them.” Sums it up quite nicely.

  2. Pingback: Restoring the Brand of a Fallen Superstar | In the crowds

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