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?