Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger Woods Returns to Golf, Nike & Others Embrace Their Links


Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father star in a new commercial from Nike Inc., one of several new advertising pushes that suggest the golfer may be on his way to repairing his shattered image with corporate America.

Nike aired Wednesday a black-and-white TV spot with Mr. Woods looking into the camera. In the background, the voice of his father, Earl Woods, seems to be talking to his son about the importance of taking responsibility for his actions. "I want to find out what your thinking was; I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything," Earl Woods says in the recording.

The ad ends with the image of the sports-apparel maker's trademark swoosh. The spot, created by Wieden + Kennedy, is the golfer's first new TV ad since unflattering revelations about his private life emerged last year. It is expected to run on
Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and Comcast Corp.'s Golf Channel. Nike says the ad will air until Thursday afternoon. "We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive golf, the ad addresses his time away from the game using the powerful words of his father," Nike said in a statement.

The voice of Earl Woods, who died in 2006, was from old interviews, a person familiar with the matter says, adding that Mr. Woods and his mother approved the spot. Mr. Woods wasn't available for comment. Videogame maker Electronic Arts also launched a campaign this week featuring Mr. Woods. The online effort by its EA Sports is using the golfer's image to promote its latest game, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online." One banner ad shows Mr. Woods, in his familiar red shirt, doing a celebratory fist pump.
Meanwhile, Le Tigre, a polo-shirt maker with no financial ties to Mr. Woods, has adopted the golfer for a billboard it says it plans to hang in New York City Friday. The billboard features a red Le Tigre golf polo and the tag line "Golf's Original Tiger. For Those Who Play A Round." The ads coincide with Mr. Woods's much-anticipated return to golf at the Masters tournament, where he is expected to tee off on Thursday. They are the first sign that marketers are willing to re-embrace the golfer after his once-pristine public image was sullied by revelations about his extramarital affairs.

Since the Nov. 27 car accident that led to intense scrutiny of his personal life, Mr. Woods's endorsement career, which brought him an estimated $100 million a year, has unraveled as sponsors like global consulting firm
Accenture PLC, AT&T Inc. and PepsiCo's Gatorade sports drink severed ties with him. Others, such as Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette, pulled back on using him in ads.

Even the companies that stuck by him have been treading carefully. EA Sports says it did plenty of market research, including online focus groups, to gauge consumer attitudes toward Mr. Woods.
Read the entire article: The Wall Street Journal Online

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