Posted by: Laura Phillips Garner | April 8, 2010

The “Church of the Swoosh” Admonishes Tiger and Sells Golf Shoes Too

A video that goes viral informs, provokes and/or entertains. It captures attention and makes people talk.

The new commercial by Nike featuring the voice of Earl Woods almost chastising a black and white video of a forlorn Tiger will be a viral classic. It’s been all over television news and the Web today with people questioning the taste of appropriating Woods’ dead father’s voice to query his son’s actions. The commercial debuts as Tiger plays in his first golf tournament this week—The Master’s no less—since his gross infidelity became the fodder for nightly cable television news, entertainment and opinion shows.

The big question for Nike is, “If the brand will continue to associate itself with Tiger Woods, why do a commercial like this?”

The answer: It’s going to allow Nike to get on with the business of selling golf shoes and golf clubs and golf hats and golf shirts. Although some would argue that Tiger is golf, it’s well known that Tiger is Nike Golf. As Barbara Lippert of “Adweek” tells Maggie Rodriguez of “The CBS Early Show,” Tiger is like one of the banks on Wall Street….He’s too big to fail. Nike has to prop him up. They have to show he’s learned his lesson.”

Besides, the Nike brand is known as a little bit irreverent and in the face of authority. Nike knows everybody knows about the scandal, Tiger’s apologies, his sex rehab. Now, Tiger is getting back to business, and it’s been said, that if he wins The Master’s the public will forgive him. But first, Nike must tell Tiger that he’s been a bad boy via the voice of his dead father. Is nothing sacred?

The viewer hears Earl Woods voice, but it’s almost like it’s Nike saying, “Tiger, I’m more prone 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?”

It’s got people talking and commenting, and they most likely are invoking the Nike name almost as much as the nearly 1 million hits the commercial already has gotten on YouTube. Nike is betting that Tiger’s fans will forgive him and continue to buy Nike Golf products. For those who don’t care one way or another, they just hear the “Nike” brand and see the iconic swoosh over and over. “It’s like the church of the holy swoosh is granting him absolution and exonerating him so they can move on,” Lippert tells Rodriguez.

The ad is polarizing, Lippert said. If people love Tiger, they’ll love the ad. If they don’t, they’ll hate it. But, boy, either way, people are talking about Nike.

Jimmy Kimmel sure had fun with this new Tiger Nike commercial. Others also are parodying it on the Web. Is forgiveness really this easy?

It also makes you think: Who does the commercial really exploit? For what purpose? Does anybody care as long as Nike sells shoes? They should.

–Laura Phillips Garner



  1. While I understand the concept behind the marketing strategy here, I am appalled that Nike was brazen enough to “resurrect” Earl Woods for this ad. But whether or not you approve of it, it is bound to invoke a passionate response one way or another in each person who views it…just the way Nike planned it!

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