Friday, April 9, 2010

A High Price for the Nike Swoosh

Since Nike released its Tiger Woods’ ad featuring the voice of his deceased father, Earl Woods, a few days ago, there has been no shortage of commentary critiquing it. Whether you like or dislike the ad, whether you think it is absolutely vile or tremendously inspiring, you must admit that as a marketing tool, it was a stroke of absolute genius. Since its release, it has been watched and re-watched and analyzed from every possible angle almost ad infinitum.

This morning Dee Foster, former elite NCAA gymnast and founder of Perfect Ten Consulting, has agreed to grace this spot with her take on the matter.

Before you read my commentary, please view the following ad if you have not done so already:

Now before I get into this, I want to be undeniably clear about two things:

  1. I am a shameless Christian woman, and I am now in the practice of referring everything I say and do to scripture. I am woman-enough to admit that I am not the best navigator of my life’s journey…I need guidance. The Bible is the best self-help book ever written.

  1. As a Christian woman, I in no way condone or endorse infidelity (or any bad behavior, for that matter) on any level. I do however, as a Christian woman, pray for God’s grace and mercy to cover and heal those who commit infidelity and those who are victimized by it. I do judge infidelity – everyone does. But I judge it from the perspective of God’s word: The Bible says that, as His children, we are to confess our sins to each other, to hold each other accountable to all behavior that is in disobedience to how God has instructed us to live and to pray for each others’ healing. (James 5:16). The Word doesn’t say anything about forcing each other to pay public and/or private penance – indefinitely –after God has already forgiven (Psalm 103:12)

Moving on.

The Masters. Golf’s proverbial holy grail of superiority. Masters. Interesting word. As a noun, it has 23 definitions according to Here’s the 10 I find particularly compelling (and contradicting):


  1. a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something: a master of six languages; to be master of one's fate.

  1. an owner of a slave, animal, etc.

  1. an employer of workers or servants.

  1. the male head of a household.

  1. a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation, art, or science: the great masters of the Impressionist period.

  1. a victor or conqueror.

  1. an officer of the court to whom some or all of the issues in a case may be referred for the purpose of taking testimony and making a report to the court.

  1. a boy or young man (used chiefly as a term of address).

  1. a device for controlling another device operating in a similar way. Compare slave

  1. the Master, Jesus Christ.

The reality is, God has already forgiven and forgotten the marital indiscretion of one Eldrick “Tiger” Woods (…and I will remember their sin no more -Jeremiah 31:34). However, the god-of-the-rubber-sole-and-shock-pads – Nike, Inc. -- has forced its former sacred cow to humiliate himself and continue to be convicted in the court of public opinion on a million dollar ad in exchange for keeping his beloved contract. And, as an added bonus to the great swoosh, they pounced on an opportunity to play God (the real One, not the shoe one).

That, friends, is called a Deal with the Devil.

Elin: The Deeper the Excrement, the More Wifey Smells of Roses

Let me just get this point out of the way before I expound on the Nike ad.

Speaking of deals with the devil…

She knew who she was marrying before she married him.

Considering how these scenarios usually exist (and they're all the same) this is not likely the first time he has cheated on her -- it's likely the first time she got fed up with it and made it public knowledge. Listen, I won’t bore you with my resume, but I’ve been in the branding, marketing and PR game for nearly two decades, so let’s just suffice it to say I know of which I speak, shall we? As a PR pro, I know that by the time someone gets busted, they have gotten away with it a million times.

Elin Whatever-Her-Maiden-Name-Is Woods left all-things-Nanny behind and chose to marry one of the wealthiest, most-famous humans on planet Earth. And she chose to marry him when he was in the prime of his career and in the prime of his life. Not unlike the many wives of professional über-athletes, she very likely turned a blind eye to some undesirable behavior (or at least hints of its existence) in exchange for an extremely comfortable life. She ignored stuff. Again, not likely this is the first time he’s been bad. Just the first time we all found out about it.

Everybody has a price. That was very clearly hers.

The devil, in this case, with whom Mrs. Woods struck her deal is not Tiger – it’s the farce that is their covenant of marriage. Now, I realize that, among females, I’m in the minority with this opinion.

That doesn’t make me wrong, though.

Treading-Not-So-Carefully, Inc.

In the argument (again, in the court of public opinion) about what is and isn’t satisfactory due-paying, representing this particular case are Tiger Woods, Elin Woods, the Woods children, a few Gloria Allred-represented opportunistic, money-whoring groupies (who are also ‘fans’ – which is short for fanatic, lest we forget…) and, last but certainly not financially least, Tiger’s sponsors.

The lone big-hat brand who “stood by” Tiger is, of course, Nike. As you saw on the recently launched, Masters Tournament-timed ad, Nike (also known as Phil Knight and his coveted ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy) is publicizing its official statement on Woods-gate. Actually, Nike has publicized more of a final judgment than an official statement – they are, after all, allowed to judge given they are the one brand not to flee.


Here’s the thing. Nike conceived this ad to reinvent Tiger Woods. Nike and Wieden + Kennedy – in their infinite marketing wisdom – have taken it upon themselves to re-create, re-brand, re-establish and re-build a broken man. Not a broken brand – a broken man. And again, this is perhaps their not-all-too-obvious way of letting The Tigster know he'd better thank his master (there’s that word again – which definition do you think is applicable?) for his one remaining endorsement contract…and that he's gonna have to crawl for it.

After seeing this ad, it is clearly in the minds of the shoe guru and its relevant partners that they are solely responsible for fixing what is broken, and if they have to dig up the rotting bones and the silenced voice of bad boy’s papa, then that’s exactly what they’ll do. I mean, if anyone can raise the dead, it’s Nike, right?

By the way, I wonder if the name of the marketing exec on this particular campaign is Creepy McCreepington. What delusional egocentric approved this thing? Don’t wanna be around that person when the rapture happens. Sheesh…

If you’re not picking up on my very acerbic sarcasm, hang in there – you’ll catch on by the time the piece is finished.

Part of the great swoosh’s reinvention strategy, by the way, is muzzling and muting Tiger (which is interesting, considering many brands are in desperate search for “articulate” athletes to endorse…but that’s another blog post altogether). Look at the ad. He says nothing. Subliminal messaging is among the most powerful to all the drones watching and waiting to be told what to think. And, in the end, Tiger's real god (Nike, not Buddah) will want to take credit for reinventing – and fixing – the broken man behind the brand.

Playing God. Deal with the Devil. Playing God. Deal with the Devil.

Oh, and if you asked me (which you didn’t, but I’m saying it anyway), Nike’s sanctimonious arrogance is so much worse than all the other brands who dropped him faster than Tiger told Groupie-Whore #1 to erase all those text messages. At least the brands who bailed revealed their sinister judgment overtly.

Oh, and I know that jab at one of Gloria Allred’s clients wasn’t very Christian of me. What can I say? God is no more finished with me than He is with Tiger…

This ad is clearly Nike’s insistence that Tiger continue to atone and, really, beg for the court of public opinion’s forgiveness. But alas, Earl’s son is only required to atone to God, his wife (although she's not blameless) and his children -- not humans. Especially not humans who have nothing to do -- at all -- with his situation. I also don't think there's anything genius about Nike faux-resurrection of a voice from the grave. I have traditionally been a great admirer (notice I didn’t say ‘fan’) of Nike ads - almost all of them are brilliant. But to me, this one is a perfect example of Nike (and its ad agency) believing its own hype and taking its advertising 'genius' over the line into a frighteningly blasphemous area.

When the last chapter of this tale is told, Tiger Woods will have won again, reigned as king of the golf world again and seen redemption in the form of new endorsement deals. He’ll have made more money than he ever dreamed possible, and he’ll sit alongside Marv Albert, Frank Gifford, Bill Clinton and countless other men on the Throne of Professional Resilience.

The real question is, how resilient is his soul?

What’s your opinion?


Karen Swim, Words For Hire said...

I am also unashamed, a Christian Woman and continuous work in progress. If this were Skype you would have seen me standing up, waving a hand and shouting Amen! I agree with every point as a Christian, woman, human, African American, and marketing professional. I do not condone infidelity but have been horrified that the "public" feels Tiger owes society an apology. His infidelity is between God, his wife and his children as noted. As for that ad, well you said it all. Thank you for speaking out and you are not alone in your opinion of his wife or this situation.

md20737 said...

I dont think we need to worry about Tigers Soul. Tiger should worry about that.

If we pay to see him play we need to worry if he shows up or not. That should be the extent of the public worry about TIGER nothing more nothing less.

The more you follow this story the more life it gets. I havent seen the commercial and dont want to. I dont want to give any more energy to the machine that is currently punishing Tiger, & I dont want to be a part of the holier than thou that judges him either. He is flesh and blood, and will mess up every now and again in life.

Fallibly Human said...

I read the author's commentary, and while I agree that it was unnecessary for Tiger's infidelity to play out in the court of public opinion. I think the author is making leaps of logic mixed in with interesting theology that I find hard to follow.

Last time I checked, Tiger Woods is not a Christian so I think it's presumptuous to think that the God of Christianity has forgiven Him. Yes, I am a Christian and I believe in the inerrant word of God and it is my personal belief that his indiscretion is between Him and God (and arguably his family), but I can't make a leap of logic and assume that Tiger believes or worships the same God that Christians do. I was a little turned off by that... actually I think her whole argument breaks down, especially about him selling his soul to the "Nike" devil because of that flawed assumption.

Which is why I think md20737's statement above eloquently sums up my feelings: "I dont think we need to worry about Tigers Soul. Tiger should worry about that"

And yes, I am in the majority of women who disagree with the author about Tiger's wife Elin. I also think it perpetuates stereotypes about Men, but I digress. Yes, she knew who she was marrying, yes he was one of the richest and most recognizable men in the world, but that does mean she got what she asked for. No one deserves that kind of treatment from their spouse regardless of who they are. And no one, despite the financial or professional status of their spouse should have to be hyper-vigilant in their marriage/relationship to make sure he's not cheating....

I was completely turned off by the judgmental nature of the post. I think it is one thing to keep it real and express your opinion honestly, but it's another when you use the Bible to justify an argument that just does not make sense - especially when it applies to someone who has never held himself out to be a Christian...

Fallibly Human said...

I should have said, "no one...should have to be hyper-vigilant in their marriage/relationship to make sure he or she is not cheating.

Sorry about that...

rainwriter jones said...

I think that Tiger needs to explain himself to no one but his wife and HIS God. Folks place other folks on pedestals, just to knock 'em down with the first indigression. He messed up, for sure, but not to himself and his family!

I try not to place my own personal feelings about morality upon others (as hard as that is). Not everyone is Christian. It is quite reasonable for both men and women of other cultures to have other lovers within their marriage: even have other husbands/wives.

He fell short of his own expectations of himself, and in my opinon, being dishonest to his wife was even worse than the infidelity.

Denisha said...

I saw the commercial. I read the blog post. I read the comments. I am a Christian as well.

Too much focus on Tiger. Too many opinions where they do not belong. He sold his soul to the devil...I really do not care. There are many scriptures that apply to this situation but it goes back to what Fallibly Human said....he is not a Christian. You cannot apply geometry to algebraic concepts.

Yeah, I agree that most women know who they are dealing with before marriage but I also think most women are forgiving & more likely to see the potential as well. This potential varies from man to man but cheating with an entire cheerleading squad is never cool no matter who you are. Good post though!

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