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It's Time to Tee Off on Tiger Woods and Nike
By: Jeff Louis
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The Masters begins today, and like everything in the past year, from health care reform in the United States to the ravaging earthquake in Haiti, Tiger Wood's expected afternoon tee time is already being labeled as "historic."

You'd think golfers have returned after having an affair (or multiple affairs), so while I'm not entirely convinced that this is one for the history books, the news media thinks it is; therefore, it is. Everything on TV is real. 

This includes the new Nike Tiger Woods' spot that is a bit unreal, puzzling, and disturbing, not to mention irrelevant. The spot began airing yesterday, and it's admittedly creepy, portraying a pensive, serious Tiger Woods standing on a golf course, staring straight into the camera. Woods is solemn as an audio track of Earl Woods, Tiger's father begins to speak.

Earl, who died in 2006, questions his famous son in a tone that suggests he's disappointed in his son and questions his motives. Tiger doesn't answer, indicative of his silence regarding questions from the media regarding his personal affairs. Earl's voice begins slowly, his tone serious.

"Tiger," he begins, "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."

Tiger's father ends the brief talk by asking his son if he learned anything.

The spot, shot in black and white, seems to be Nike's attempt to either acknowledge or confront their spokesman's extramarital sexcapades. However, as the commercial comes to a close, there's no climax. Woods stares blankly at the camera, his face indecipherable but possibly sad. he blinks once as his father's voice ends, and the spot fades to the Nike logo.

It aired on ESPN and the Golf Channel, reminding us without specific mention that Woods is returning to competitive golf in the first round of the Masters today. Woods seems to be the only sports story worthy of coverage, so I don't think most of us needed reminding.

Since the media attention of Wood's sexual exploits have been muted, it seems like Nike is reawakening the story to in an effort to keep Tiger's return controversial. Online outlets are revisiting the story.

For Nike, the spot seems risky. Nike has kept Tiger Woods the golfer and Tiger Woods the unfaithful spouse apart from each another, steadfastly supporting Woods while claiming that Tiger's personal life is personal. When the scandal broke and sponsors like Gatorade dropped Woods immediately, I praised Nike for their support. Now Nike is weighing in on the controversial topic from which they steered clear, highlighting Tiger's unfaithful marriage to wife, Elin.

AdWeek's Barbara Lippert clearly disagrees.

"I think it's totally brilliant for Tiger," she says, "because it does all the rehabilitation for him and he doesn't have to say a word. He just has to stand there and look blank."

Lippert added it was smart for Nike to play "the dad card." Donny Deutsch raved about the ad on "Today," also calling it brilliant.

Clearly, I must be wrong. While the ad is brilliant, it's also confusing. For instance, how does someone unfamiliar with Woods make the connection that the person asking Woods the questions is his father? For his fans, they'd most certainly recognize who was speaking; however, would they also remember that Earl Woods was an unfaithful husband? If so, what kind of value is derived from an unfaithfully married father questioning his unfaithfully married son on the motive behind the son's actions?   

It doesn't seem to resonate with viewers, either. USA Today described it as "strange, creepy, sad, bizarre, and uncomfortable."

Nike issued a brief statement, reported in the NY Post: "We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive golf, the ad addresses his time away from the game using the powerful words of his father."  

My question to Nike is this: Don't powerful words that deliver meaningless messages cancel out, rendering the both impotent? If so, it seems like a waste of breath.



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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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