Today is Tiger Woods’ big day. At 1:42 p.m., he is scheduled to tee off at The Master’s in Augusta, Ga., marking his first foray into competitive golf after his disastrous personal slide of the last few months.
And it may be just in the nick of time that Woods is returning to what he really does best, because his attempts at restoring his tarnished personal brand are going south in a hurry. Woods had seemed to be following to some positive effect the script laid out by his handlers for his personal-rehabilitation campaign leading up to this week’s Masters. With sober interviews and engaged answers to dozens of personal questions at a press conference on Monday, Tiger seemed poised for a well-orchestrated and deliberate comeback.
But then the Nike ad (above) appeared yesterday, demonstrating an awful tone-deafness on the part of both the fabled sports brand and its most renowned spokesman. The spot basically amounts to a scolding of Tiger by his deceased father, employing audio in which the elder Woods asks if his son has learned his lesson. The golfer himself simply appears silently, and rather blankly – in Nike-swooshed garb.
Now, Woods has appealed before – and honestly so, it would seem – to the impact that his father had on his life and on his ambitions as a golfer. And when Dad passed away a few years ago, it clearly ripped Woods apart emotionally. Tiger’s fans and the public in general had become somewhat familiar with the import of that relationship.
So to exploit that understanding in a TV advertisement, at such a ripe moment, seems way too early at best – and terribly crass at the worst. Nobody can really believe that Woods is yet so “cured” of his personal demons that he already can without hesitation turn them into a commercial trick on behalf of Nike or any other brand.
Sure, the public may be ready to accept a contrite Tiger over time as a brand spokesman again, but not this soon. Nike’s de facto declaration that the rehabilitation of Tiger’s image already is complete not only is presumptuous but also, frankly, unnecessary.
And as if to underscore that sad reality, on Wednesday a couple of other personal-branding issues surfaced for Woods – still further allegations about affairs, these involving a neighbor, and an impassioned lecture by Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne.
“Certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par,” Payne said, “but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change.”
Perhaps that sincerity will be the platform for Nike's next commercial.