Tag Archives: Nike

April 8th, 2010

American Contrition

So perhaps you've heard of this Tiger Woods fellow. Been in the news a bit lately. Kinda took Nike's "Just Do It" tagline a bit literally.  Here is Nike/W+K's rejoinder, featuring Tiger's recently deceased father. It's fascinating, on a lot of levels.

Is it nakedly exploitative and self-serving? Absolutely. Which is interesting in-and-of-itself. This spot doesn't try to be anything else. Nike is saying, in effect, "You're not stupid. You know we're trying to sell golf crap. And you know we've invested gajillions in this guy. And you know no one has more to gain from a potential comeback than us. But still, check this out."

That's pretty smart.

We bet a lot of people will make the (facile) charge that "Nike's trying to put one over on us." We don't think that's true. The situation is what it is. Nike has to face it head-on whether they want to or not. So they're putting their biggest star out there and letting his dead father scold him for thirty seconds. They're treating us like adults, and they'll probably reap the whirlwind for doing so. We wish them luck with that.

But wait, there's more.

This is a very tightly-controlled exercise in American Celebutard Contrition. By which we mean – the standard drill is:

  1. Celebutard Does Something Bad.
  2. Lies About Same.
  3. Comes Clean.
  4. Hides/Goes To Rehab.
  5. Appears on Oprah to Explain Self/Take Whuppin'.
  6. Lies Low, Waits For Someone Else To Do Something Worse.
  7. All Better.

Tiger can't really pull off step #6 if he expects to remain in the job he's trained for since he was five years old.  But what's interesting is how Nike, Tiger, and W+K are getting around step #5.

He actually is taking his whuppin', and from his dead father, no less. "Sure, Nike – dig up Dad and have him scold me while I stand there and take it." Dramatic. Undoubtedly painful. But far less undignified – and uncontrolled – than the typical Oprah Shame Spectacle. Does it let Tiger off too easily? Probably. Does it rehab his brand? Oh hell, no. But it's a necessary step toward that end. Does it sell Nike Golf? Time will tell. Does it get people talking? Oh, hell yes. Which is good for Nike, and astonishingly freaking great for W+K.

It makes us wonder – who's in charge here? Phil Knight? Tiger? Dan Wieden? We're talking a $100 million-plus endorsement deal here. Certainly Nike has the right to make a few demands. And W+K has a duty to the brand to deliver an emotional gut-punch. But where did the decision-making start? And end? Who said, "This is what we're going to do." ?

Finally, the voiceover itself.

"Tiger? I am more, um, inclined to be inquisitive…to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was…I want to find out what your feelings are…and, did you learn anything?"

On the one hand, this is an awfully soft wristslap for one of the biggest Bimbo Eruptions in modern history. We rather thought Elin's approach was more appropriate.

On the other, we live in a world that's absolutely dominated by mass media. (A world Nike and W+K had a pretty big hand in creating, if you ask us.)  We see the havoc the Global Hype Machine is capable of wreaking every time we turn on a tv, computer or however you get your news these days. Look around – it's scary out there, and getting scarier by the second.

So. Is this self-serving? Yes.
Does it let Tiger off too easily? Definitely.


Has the calm, measured, "let's all take a deep breath" nature of Earl's speech taken things down a notch? And has the spot – all elements taken together -  perhaps even changed the very nature of the conversation about: Nike, Tiger, marital infidelity, celebrity, and mass media?

Has W+K rebranded the f#*$ing apology!?

We kinda think it has. We may change our minds later. But…wow. 

(All that being said, South Park did it way better, and two weeks earlier. Those guys are the heavyweight champions of the world. Very NSFW, but hilarious.)