Nike's PR gaffe: For real?

tiger_nike_ad_1We can agree that good PR cannot be maintained without the consistent, positive performance of the organization or individual a PR person represents.  So did Nike take that maxim a step too far?

This past week, Tiger Woods reclaimed his standing at the top of the golf world by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.  It was December 2009 when we learned about his extramarital affairs, an admission resulting in the loss of lucrative endorsement deals, the suspension of his golfing career, and the end of his marriage and his squeeky-clean reputation.  He repeatedly apologized for his actions, went through therapy and began to compete again.  Two years ago Woods hit rock-bottom, ranked 58th in the world.

So after re-taking the number one position, Nike–which has retained its relationship with Tiger Woods throughout his crises–ran an ad on Facebook and Twitter that declared: “Winning Takes Care Of Everything.” But some media folks didn’t care for the message.  My good friend and mentor Bert Cunningham pointed to the lead sentence in a New York Post sports section story on the ad which read: “Tiger Woods and Nike opened themselves up to an industrialized can of social media whoop-ass…”.  Bert noted, “Interesting how Tiger was the comeback kid on all the sports news Monday night.  By Tuesday afternoon he was a polarizing figure again.” Attention to the ad and its subsequent controversy quickly spread throughout all the major–and minor–media outlets.  The underlying message might as well have been, “We can forget the mess you left behind now that you’re on top of the game again!”

Was Nike’s ad an error in judgement?  Were any of the negative public relations ramifications considered by Nike or Tiger Woods?  Or is this a manufactured controversy; maybe the ad ran just to create the hype and buzz.  If this was the case, it worked.  To my knowledge, no one in either camp has commented on the ad, so clearly neither thought there was a need for damage control.  Perhaps Woods and Nike got what they wanted out of this little “controversy.”  Your thoughts?

45 thoughts on “Nike's PR gaffe: For real?

  1. Erica Barnes

    It’s hard to root against anybody when they’ve made such an amazing comeback, and as an avid golf fan, I’ll admit I was pulling for Tiger to make it back to number one. His success in the sport is a reminder of why he was so well loved by the public in the first place. His victory should have been used as an opportunity to celebrate his athleticism, not as a segue into a reminder of his indiscretions.

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  2. rcardno91

    The add does not appear to be politically correct, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t correct. The public outrage towards Tiger Woods after his sex scandal broke was not unprecedented. The public loves to knock people down from their pedestal. But we also love to build you back up again. The reason that Tiger remained in the nations’s proverbial doghouse was simple, he became a loser. America can tolerate adulterers because we all love a good scandal but the one thing that will not be tolerated in this country is losing. In our society, winning really does solve everything.

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  3. Alex Packer

    Well, I don’t doubt for a second that the corporate giant Nike, which surely staffs numerous PR people, had been eagerly awaiting the chance to run that ad since the scandal first hit. Controversial figures always create a media frenzy, and that’s exactly what has happened here.
    As far as my stance on this ad ethically, I do not agree. Not only does this ad downplay the severity of infidelity (and a pretty severe case of infidelity at that), but it also promotes the sense that success can equate to forgiveness, which is not the case in reality. Instead of the making a statement that “one win can make up for many losses” this ad basically states “lies and betrayal don’t matter if you’re a winner.” Which is not cool.

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  4. Mara Ruocco

    Were they trying to be funny? I’m not sure if that was the best way to word what they wanted to say. It is true that people can redeem themselves by accomplishing greater things but since when is winning what matters most? I thought Nike sent the message that people should be active and try no matter what, “Just Do It”. I’m confused as to what they were going for.

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  5. Brittni Hicks

    I think Nike’s goal with this ad was banking on short term memory. I think they thought that 2009 was 4 years ago and people have probably forgotten about Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, but by being #1 again, his name will once again be relevant, and connected to something more positive.

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  6. aunaturalenyc

    It’s nice that Tiger is back in the game and is playing well. Could this message be perceived in the wrong way by some people it comes across? Surely. I personally think it was bad judgement. To me it is saying that his actions can now be overlooked by his success. I am not a golf fan (unlike my dad), so either way this doesn’t effect me. It’s like Chris Brown and Rihanna. The incident should never be overlooked, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to their music.

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  7. Mia D'Angelo

    When I think Nike I think, dedication, hard work, and determination. “Winning takes care of everything” does not embody those characteristics at all. I am honestly shocked that Nike ran this ad. For years Nike has prided itself on its inspiring messages and advertisements. “Winning takes care of everything,” to me, basically implies a message that “cheating is ok” (pun intended), and that the hard work doesn’t matter, just the final result. This ad directly contradicts the millions of ads prior to this. Although Tiger Woods can be seen has dedicated, determined and hard working for his comeback, there are THOUSANDS of other athletes that work just as hard in their careers without the bad behaviors he had exhibited. Overall I feel that the blame should be placed on Nike. I agree with previous comments that I doubt Tiger had much say but the responsibility really lies on Nike. Nike had such an inspiring image through its advertisements and products and this ad quite frankly goes against all of it.

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  8. Jeremy Beck

    There is no doubt that this ad should be solely contributed to Nike. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say Tiger approved this ad because I’m not so sure it puts him in a positive light. However, in this case the any press is good press motto may be appropriate because it created quite a conversation about Tiger which deflects the negativity and Nike accomplishes its goal of being part of the conversation, but always connected to greatness.

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  9. Kellianne

    I feel that Tiger probably didn’t have much say in the advertisement, even though he is the advertisement. He needed to gain his reputation back, but using this as a way to do so, isn’t smart. It’s basically saying if you win, all of your bad images will go away. That is not the case. Although I really don’t think it matters for people in the celebrity spotlight. Unless they physically harm someone, people are still going to watch them. Think about Lindsay Lohan; yes, she has made awful decisions, but I’m sure if she had a new movie people would definitely go and see it!

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  10. stevenpmorin

    Nike’s ad is completely correct. It’s not what should be said, and it’s bringing deserved criticism, but it’s totally right. The story surrounding Tiger Woods was his affairs for over three years until he reclaimed his #1 spot. Michael Vick was an animal abuser until he became the MVP of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ben Roethlisberger was a rapist until he took his team to the SuperBowl. Athletes are athletes, not characters in a soap opera. Competing in their sport is what they do, and will always be the most important thing about them. An athlete’s poor performance will perpetuate their negative story, but once the athlete returns to form, they regain control of their career.

    This all being said, Nike definitely put its foot in its mouth with this comment and came across as smug. Tiger’s message ever since his incident has been thousands of apologies. Now Nike is flipping the script to make Tiger seem like a cocky jerk. This was definitely a gaffe.

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  11. Sasha Mirpuri

    While I feel like Nike could have come up with something much better to create a buzz as opposed to something so arrogant, I think that they were successful in creating a buzz and geting people talking about Tiger Woods again. As the saying goes, “no publicity is bad publicity”…

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  12. Lola Odejobi

    I’m happy that Tiger Woods is playing well again. I think this ad was kind of arrogant. I don’t know if Tiger had anything to do with the ad, but it makes him look bad. However, the message is accurate because the public loves seeing public figures build themselves back up again after they have been down for a long time.

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  13. Kristen Kelly

    It’s nice that Tiger Woods could overcome his public embarrassment and retake the number one position, but I really don’t think the ad run by Nike is in any way, shape or form appropriate or good for the brand. It’s basically saying, “its okay Woods cheated on his wife with dozens of girls, because now he’s back and stronger then ever, so cheat and win.” How could this ad be placed to create hype and buzz that would benefit Nike? It makes them look like they approve of the mistakes Woods made and as long as he wins its okay. If anything, this ad doesn’t do much for Nike, but it does ad recognition of Woods and his winning the cup. People who don’t watch gold (like myself) would have never known he won, or even competed unless the hype of this ad didn’t go viral. Good PR for Tiger Woods (not that I approve of any of the choices he made in the past), and bad PR for Nike.

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  14. Kneekiki

    I think this was meant to create a buzz. If there was any way to put tiger back in the media to cause a discussion this had to happen. I do not know Tiger personally but somehow I feel like he was completely behind this and thought it was a good idea. I do not follow golf but I know there was already buzz in the media about his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. We all know Tiger messed up royally but we cannot knock him for being an excellent golf player. Well played on Nike and Tigers part.

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  15. Helen Masha

    It has been a few years since the whole Tiger Woods scandal and many have learned to forgive but maybe not completely forget. Putting out an ad that basically says you can do whatever you want as long as you win may not be the best way to go about introducing the reborn partnership between Tiger Woods and Nike. As far as PR goes that is certainly not a message that a company should want being part of it’s image. This may just be a way to create more buzz and be a part of the any press is good press idea but I am not so sure. There is a much better way to go about promoting Nike and Tiger’s work.

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  16. LucieSorel

    This ad was definitely in touch with nikes image portrayal of being cocky, sarcastic, and “winning”. Nike has run ad campaigns in the past where they use similar phrases which build a persons confidence that the brand will create a winner no matter what. However, this wasn’t a smart situation considering Woods’ terrible PR history. His instances of cheating were so recent that people have not yet forgotten. I would find it interesting to see how much of a say Woods had in the actual release of this ad. Did his PR team work actively with nike to put out the phrase? I think not.

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  17. aciardullo

    I do not agree with this ad. I do not think it should have been posted. I believe it was poor PR and it just shows everyone that if you are famous, have enough money, and/or can find a good way to spin what you did you can get away with just about anything which is not how the world works or how it should work at least…

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  18. Beckett Mufson

    The people who are going to forgive Tiger Woods already have, and the ones who are gonna hold a grudge would have hung onto it for a long time anyway. This ad points out that, in the sports world, nothing trumps pure excellence.

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  19. diane

    I believe this ad should not have run by Nike because it is basically saying that as long as you are a “winner” or successful person, you can do anything and get away with it. Tiger Woods was portrayed in a negative way in the media for a long time after his scandals and lost the following of many fans. However, by running this ad, Nike is saying that what he did in the past should be forgotten because he is winning again. The success of Tiger Woods should not make up for what he has done in the past.

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  20. kerrischreiber

    I think it was just written to create buzz. Someone at Nike tried to use a cheap way of being creative to play on the situation of Tiger Woods past and his recent success. One ad isn’t going to fix his reputation and in fact has a better chance of ruining it. In the publics eye, Woods = bad and there really is no PR that is going to change the majority of the peoples attitudes about him.

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  21. Brenna Harran

    I think this is definitely poor taste of Nike. We don’t know if Tiger Woods himself approves each and every ad that is posted so I can’t say it was poor taste of him also. I think it makes the whole Tiger Woods situation a little humorous/sarcastic and maybe that is what they were going for but a lot of people may not find it so funny. I think this was poor PR and there are many other ways to project Tiger’s image.

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  22. Hunter F. (@kristintellsall)

    I actually have not heard of this till this post. I find it distasteful PR and honestly I find it a little discouraging. PR have done so many great things recently and have been put on media for positive attributes but then one PR team has to come and screw it up for the rest. Winning will not take care of anything. He cheated. Once a cheater always a cheater. I find that they just sided with him with the entire thing. Do I think it’s right she swung at home with a golf club, baseball bat, whatever the rumor is…no. She should have just packed up and never looked back. Like you said we cant’t realize great PR without idiots that do stuff like this.

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  23. EMC

    It goes back to the cliche, “Too soon.” While years from now, maybe we can make a joke about this, I don’t think it was appropriate timing now. Humor walks a fine line between being edgy and being distasteful. This was distasteful in many ways. Nike is a respected brand that has garners a lot of respect. This joke is just the opposite, and seems to be fall into the trap of inappropriate and informal viral technique that the Internet fosters..and one which an advertiser has to stay away from with such a respected brand.

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  24. Pingback: Winning and Hover Crafts | Keeping the Ball Rolling

  25. gionnacerniglia

    I agree with some of the comments listed above. Nike and Tiger were asking for all of this hype and controversy. I do not think Nike should have ran the message, it presents sarcasm, unprofessionalism and bad public relations tactics for Nike. They should have thought more about their message before they sent it out and at least had worded differently.

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  26. Hannah Lebowitz

    I think Nike got exactly what they wanted. Tiger is going to be polarizing and if they are going to sponsor him and using him in ads, they might as well do it in a way that will generate a ton of hype. Tiger actually lost everything. I doubt winning will get it back. I do think a lot of golf fans like Tiger and maybe that is who Nike was trying to appeal to anyways.

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  27. blarouche

    I think that Tiger and Nike got the reaction that they were hoping for by stirring things up. It certainly grabbed a lot of attention. Even if the result was what they wanted though, I think the timing was poor. The ad took the newly regained positive attention on Tiger and made him once again a topic of controversy. I think the wise thing would have been to wait and let Tiger reap the full benefits of his win before casting himself into a questionable light once again.

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  28. caliannfornia

    I’m sure both sides were aware of the media backlash they were going to receive, however, I don’t think they really cared. Tiger is #1 again and Nike likes #1 athletes. Also, they probably assumed since he apologized, went through therapy, and took those couple of years to himself to change that it is indeed okay for him to be at the top again. Fact is : Tiger is a great golfer. Maybe his personality isn’t up to par but you can’t deny talent. If Tiger is great at what he does (sports wise) then people are going to want to buy the products he uses to get to that #1 spot. Yeah he made a mistake but honestly we are all human and there are plenty of men and women who cheat on their spouses and don’t get caught. People need to focus more on the sport and his talent rather than what he has done. Granted what he had done was morally wrong and distasteful, you need to realize he is number 1 again because of his inner reflection and love for his sport. I think this situation takes someones personal life into account and people are overlooking his pure talent. This almost reminds me of the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation. Domestic violence is a big “no” and not okay by any means. However, he is talented and there are people out there who may not agree with his life choices but still enjoy his music. Should he not be allowed to make music because of his mistake? Should Tiger not be allowed to endorse products because he cheated? I don’t think there will ever be a single agreement on situations that take into account personal lives and mistakes. There will always be the side that wants the person out of the public eye going against the side that believes talent is talent and if you are at the top then you are at the top regardless of actions.

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  29. Alex Hyman

    I agree with most of the previous comments and say that this ad should not have been run by Nike. I believe it is saying that you can do whatever you want in life and screw up as often as Tiger Woods did, but as long as you are a winner it is ok. He had a number of problems which left him in a negative light with many fans and people who followed his disastrous last few years but now Nike is saying that because he is winning once again, we should forget about the things he did over the past few years. Winning should not erase the mistakes that he made the past few years.

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  30. Alexis Gionesi

    I think Nike shouldn’t have ran the message, for it clearly could be taken in a negative context. There is no need to add any controversy to Tiger Wood’s image. Claiming that he is “winning,” is no way to get the public to be on his side, but rather just reinstate his arrogance. I understand that he is successful, but it’s not just how good he is at golf, it’s also important to have a positive image.

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  31. Amanda Daley

    Although Nike probably wants it to seem like they are celebrating the return of Tiger Woods to the top of the golf game, Nike had to have known the uproar it would have caused as a result of Woods’ reputation. When I first read an article about this, I discovered that “Winning takes care of everything,” was actually a direct quote from Tiger Woods. Although Woods is making a comeback, i feel this ad makes fun of the 2009 controversy with Woods.

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  32. ccorte6

    If I had to “blame” someone, I would probably blame Nike. They should have known that this was not going to be received well by the public. However, I’m shocked that Tiger allowed this; for someone who worked hard to try to reshape his image, it’s sad he’d let it flop so easily like this. I have to question maybe how much Nike may have persuaded him that this ad was a good idea. For those reasons, I think I’m going to have to agree that Nike came up with this ad just to get a buzz in the media.

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  33. ejm1059

    Personally, I think the ad was very dumb and completely unnecessary. Reminding people of what happened back in 2009 just over shadowed his victory. A simple congratulations from Nike would’ve sufficed. Just because he’s #1 again doesn’t mean that people are ready to forgive him. He still has steps to go to win the public back and that message wasn’t it. No, Nike, obviously winning does not fix everything.

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  34. AndreaRebello

    It’s hard for me to choose a side when it comes to this controversy. From a PR person’s perspective, it is wrong that Nike ran that ad because they are basically portraying the message that “winning makes everything better,” which could possibly result in a bad image for Nike. However, the fact that it resulted in a little bit of a media controversy was probably the point of the ad to begin with. The sarcasm of the ad makes it interesting, humorous, and appealing to the public, which is the entire purpose of an advertisement.

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  35. Annik Spencer

    I personally think that this ad was ran to make a controversy. The slogan is just controversial enough that it would erupt in the media, but not too touchy that it would totally ruin Nike and Tiger Wood’s reputation. If that is the case and the ad was put out to create a buzz, it makes me questions Nike’s intentions. I can’t see myself advising a client to do something like this in a crisis situation. Tiger offended and upset a lot of people, including loyal fans. And although it has been many years since the height of the controversy, I honestly think that he still needs to be “walking on eggshells.” I will definitely follow the story to see how this ad affects Nike and Tiger.

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  36. Amanda Torres

    I do not personally care for the ad, because it just reminds me of the whole “winning” slogan from Charlie Sheen. It’s almost as if they dismiss everything he was scrutinized for a few months ago, but maybe that’s what they wanted? I guess, like other people have said, they just want to create another buzz for Tiger Woods… It definitely worked.

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  37. Jenny Rowe

    I don’t necessarily agree with the ad Nike used, but as someone already stated in a previous comment, you either love Tiger or you hate him. Most people in the golf world love him, so this might have been a smart move on Nike’s part. Despite his poor actions, Tiger has broken many records and is still one of the most successful golfers of all time. And as you said, he was at rock bottom only two years ago, so by creating this ad Nike got the message out that they are behind the world’s #1 golfer once again.

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  38. Shurida Lundi

    Nike and Tiger Woods wanted a little controversy, that’s all. I don’t think the ad was telling us to forget what Woods has done but we need to move on from it. It’s his life, not ours. He messed up and paid the price for it. Now he’s doing what he has to do to climb his way back to the top. He hasn’t done anything wrong since his last mess-up unlike superstar singer Chris Brown who continues to do wrong. He’s trying to rebuild his name in the public eye again. I don’t think he wanted to be stuck-up or shove it in people’s faces that he’s back on top again. Woods doesn’t have much control over what Nike does so if we had to put the blame on someone, it would be Nike more than Woods.

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  39. Sarah Caruso

    I don’t know if this was meant to be sarcastic or not, but I think the message was correct in saying that winning fixes everything. In our society today people are quick to forgive and forget. Remember when Robert Downey Jr. was a drug addict? Now he’s America’s superhero. Winning does fix everything, at least for the wealthy and famous. It works for them because they are worshiped like gods. I personally give Nike props for running an honest ad.

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  40. Claire T.

    Honestly, I feel like someone from the Nike campaign made this comment in a sarcastic tone and together they decided maybe it could create a buzz. In a way they’re kind of poking fun at Tiger’s past. I personally find it funny, but I do agree that it doesn’t make him look good in any way. A lot of people have and will find it an offensive comment, and that’s the reason that sarcasm doesn’t do well in PR. Another example would be John Mayer. He’s notorious for being a “womanizer” and looking down on the female population in general simply because of a few misconstrued comments. However, many people close to the singer have admitted he has an incredibly dry sense of humor. He’s posted on his personal forums that being in the spotlight means people are going to take things the wrong way so he likes to play with that concept by letting the public misinterpret the things he says.

    At the end of the day both John Mayer and Tiger Woods are still incredibly respected for what they do. Tiger Woods may very well go down in history as the greatest golfer ever and in 50 years his personal life will be nothing but a tidbit.

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  41. gmcillo

    I think this looks bad for both Nike and Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods and his team did everything they could do to clean up his reputation and this just put him right back where he started. You almost have to question what was the purpose of even doing the damage control in the beginning, if Tiger was just going to stir more controversial publicity. As for Nike they are sending the message of winning is the most important thing. This message gives the wrong idea to children who idolize the sportswear company. Unfortunately, I do not think it was accidental and Nike and Tiger Woods should put better effort into putting a positive image for people who look up to them.

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  42. nikkigyftopoulos

    I think this message by Nike and Tiger Woods has definitely erupted in a media controversy. The message not only said that Woods winning erases his mistakes, but also gives people the message that winning is more important than everything. This totally reverses all of the morals that parents try to instill in their children. I do believe that this stunt may have been planned to gain publicity, but that does not change the fact that this has affected the public’s perception of Tiger Woods and Nike. i think the post could have been worded much differently and would have given the same message. Something about “overcoming obstacles to gain success” would have been much more suitable for this type of campaign. Both Nike and Tiger Woods need to rethink and reconsider their strategies for created a positive public image.

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  43. Ian Poulos

    The entire presentation could have been worded differently while creating an equally powerful public impact. From Nike’s standpoint, the company wants to maximize sales, and it has associated itself with an athlete who has regained the throne while also tying Michael Vick for first place on Forbes’ “America’s Most Disliked Athletes”. This is a difficult combination. A Nike spokesman recently responded to the ad by claiming that Tiger has consistently aimed for regaining the first place ranking and that this is a testament to his dedication. I think that Nike is implying that its products helped Tiger overcome his personal issues in achieving his goal.

    Is this a distasteful advertisement? Yes, it is, but Nike is known for creating quality athletic gear. People who buy new golf clubs or shoes will be thinking about the fact that these clubs helped someone rise to the top – not the athlete’s unfavorable personal choices that date back almost 5 years. I do not agree with the message, and I do not think it was an accidental oversight.

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  44. janabanana12

    I don’t think Nike should have ran the message. If people read it as sarcastic, then Nike looks like a company who is mocking a public figure (who they used to sponsor.) If the comment was serious, then it makes Tiger Woods look bad, because it somewhat glorifies his mistakes. This was a bad PR job and should have been ignored. Just because Woods is at the top of his game again doesn’t mean people need to lean on the past- you either love him or hate him, but he had his downfall and now is earning his way up again, in the public and in the sport.

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  45. Wendy

    Shame on Nike and shame once more goes to Tiger, this time for agreeing to this ludicrous ad. He’s so talented but just not getting it. This isn’t the way to reclaim your reputation or earn money for a sponsor.

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