Years from now there will be a VH1 retrospective on the first decade of the 21st century and toward the end we will come to the section on Tiger Woods. The segment will note his ascendency but really focus on the golf wunderkind’s fall from grace. And while it all started to unravel when the public learned about his affinity for sex with attractive women, despite his marriage to another attractive woman, the end of the Tiger Woods phenomenon, they will conclude, came with the release of this Nike commercial.
In this ad, which Nike (Stock Quote: NKE) incredulously released last night, we see Tiger, in black and white, looking serious and perhaps a little sad. And then we hear it - the voice of his late father, Earl Woods.
“Tiger, I am 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.”
Then they cut to the Nike swoosh.
It is just astonishing that actual human beings thought that this was a good idea.
Here’s the thing that somehow neither Nike nor Tiger were able to keep in perspective. Yes, Tiger’s cheating was bad -- embarrassing for everyone, particularly Tiger and his family. But, guess what. In the context of his career, particularly in terms of his ability to serve as a pitch-man for different products, it wasn’t that big of a deal. People like to gossip about it, the media loves to cover it, but ultimately I don't think anyone really cares.
Consider these infidelity facts from the aptly named InfidelityFact.com:
57% of men admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had.
54% of women admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had.
74% of men say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.
68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.
Here’s my favorite:
17% of men and women admit to infidelity (emotional or physical) with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
Now, I’d wager that among golf-lovers these numbers are even higher (and anyone who has caddied at a men’s-only club knows what I’m talking about), but if these stats are even close to being accurate then lots of Americans can identify with Tiger Woods and his unquenchable thirst for nookie. It doesn’t mean they approve of it, it just means they can empathize, and probably aren't scandalized. So all this brand rehabilitation is really quite unnecessary.
The first thing I wondered when I saw this commercial was what was the original intent of Earl’s statement and in what context was it given? Earl’s words may in fact have been cobbled together from a variety of different sound bytes, but according to the New York Times, Nike isn’t commenting on that. No matter. It will come out eventually.
The Times also quoted an advertising executive name Bob Dorfman who argued that Nike had to address the situation head on, concluding that “They’d take a lot of flack if they didn’t.” Sure about that, Bob? You really think that Nike and Tiger needed to take a dead man’s words out of context, in an effort to rehabilitate a golfer’s image and sell more shoes? Because up until now Tiger’s relationship with his father had always been kind of sacred, and now it’s just a marketing gimmick, like bouncing a golf ball on a golf club.
Like I said before: most people probably would have forgiven him for the screwing around, even the most recent revelation. But not this. This is truly disgusting.
(It's only fair to note, for the record, we're not above poking some fun at Tiger as our list of his potential new sponsors attests.)
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