Does the New Nike Tiger Woods Ad Solve His Crisis?

Last night on the eve of the Masters Golf Tournament, ESPN and The Golf Channel aired the first Tiger Woods commercial since his famed sex scandal.  The 30 second commercial by Nike, filmed recently at Tiger’s home in Florida, featured a somber looking Woods staring silently into the camera as the voice of his dead father Earl Woods asks him questions about his return to golf.

Some media outlets like FoxSports.com and London’s Daily Mail, have labled the ad as creepy.

By the time Tiger Woods tees off in his return to the sport he has transformed, thousands of responses will be posted by media, fans, curiosity seekers and critics, who have watched the spot.

Was the use of Earl Woods’ voice appropriate to call out his son on his transgressions?  Was the silence of Tiger an effective way for him to show his remorse and seek forgiveness from his fans? And, was this the proper way for Nike, one of Tiger’s only sponsors that stayed with him during this crisis, to show their support?

From Nike’s perspective you would have to say they hit a home run.  The ad has generated buzz and has allowed the brand to showcase to the world, its full support of Tiger Woods.  For a company that has never shied away from controversy or edgy campaigns, this was a brilliant move by them to pave the way for the return of their prized property.

Only time will tell if Tiger Woods can regain his credibility and stature and put this sex scandal behind him.  If he does, Nike will stand to benefit greatly.

From  a communications standpoint, this ad was effective in several ways.

Many might argue that it’s inappropriate to use the voice of his father who passed away in 2006. However, he has consistently said that the loss of his father was a devastating blow to him. He obviously had to endorse this use. The psychological ramifications and significance of this can only be addressed by Tiger.

Tiger’s silence for three months following the first revelations of his sex scandal were criticized by many, including myself

His silence in this ad was a bold move to show his remorse to the world.  By staring at a camera and having his father dress him down, Tiger Woods basically tells the world he can no longer hide from his transgressions. 

For those who discount the importance of crisis communications, this is a very important example.  Companies and individuals faced with a crisis need to be out in front of it.  A transparent, honest response to a crisis is essential. The more you hold back information, delay disclosure and stonewall, the more you will find yourself in the position that Tiger Woods placed himself in.  He ultimately had to lay his soul bare letting his father scold him before the world to see. 

You might criticize the process and use of his father in an ad, but how you respond to a crisis will either lesson the eventual impact of the crisis on your business or person or make you open to worldwide disdain and criticism.

 Tom Cosentino

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