In a bold and daring marketing move, Nike put out a new online advertisement with a picture of Tiger Woods kneeling and lining up a putt with a caption that reads, “winning takes care of everything.”
Woods’ infamous fall from glory in 2009 led to his slow, but steady, emergence back into golf’s spotlight as he recently regained the world’s No. 1 rank. But for Nike, or Woods, to assume that winning would wipe Woods’ slate clean is far from true.
Tiger Woods was not just any famous athlete.
He was a cultural icon, unlike any other professional golfer.
He became a household name who was the face of his sport ever since his first Masters win in 1997. His image helped sell everything from golf clubs to Wheaties and video games, and he quickly became one of the highest paid athletes in the world. His endorsements and charitable foundation portrayed him as an idyllic role model to whom the world needed to pay respect.
But after a long November night out, an unfortunately placed fire hydrant and a nine-iron through his windshield, the world came to know Woods as a man off his pedestal. Someone who was once so respected had fallen to unimaginable lows, almost overnight.
Though Woods’ problems were personal, it was not even the philandering or partying that axed his image. Rather, it was the fact that Nike and his other endorsers had lied to the world with their image of perfection. Whether it was reckless naÃ¯vetÃ© or fanatic hopefulness, society was duped into thinking there was such a thing as a perfect superstar athlete.
However, like Michael Vick or Kobe Bryant before him, the world was upset at Woods for awhile, then let him apologize, work out his personal problems and come back to the course.
But Nike and Woods making the bold claim that “winning would take care of everything” is simply a slap in the face to anyone who was willing to give Woods another shot. It undermines how the world views athletes and it makes sports fans seem like all they care about is the winner.
If anything, the ad did what it was designed to do – stir up emotion and elicit a response. But the world is not ready for Woods or Nike to be so casual about the situation. It is great for golf that Woods is back on the Tour, but he should be taking a far more sensitive approach to his rebooting career and media image.