Pro golf superstar Tiger Woods is making a comeback on the golf course – rising to the top spot in world rankings for the first time since his serial philandering caused a sudden split from then-wife Elin Nordegren in December 2009. This week, Oregon-based sports gear manufacturer and Woods mega-sponsor Nike seized upon his renewed domination of the sport by launching an ad that seems to dismiss his recent transgressions and excuse the impact his decisions have had on others under the catch-all slogan “winning takes care of everything.”
Nike released the ad Monday on Twitter (at right).
Winning takes care of everything? Really?
Does it mean that Woods no longer has to pay alimony? Does it mean his children will no longer split time between parents living in two different homes? Does their shame and embarrassment vanish? Do they get to have the tiny semblance of a normal family life back, albeit the one that celebrities have to jealously fight to create?
[pullquote]How does Nike and Tiger’s message sound when set against the backdrop of the Steubenville rape? … [The rapists’] apologists can now rejoice in Nike’s new mantra of absolution through athletic domination.[/pullquote]While it’s true that Nike has never positioned itself as a “family values” company, its familiar swoosh logo is ubiquitous on the gear and uniforms worn by millions of young athletes. This new uber-permissive slogan for the Woods brand is simplistic and consciously ignorant of context while providing the Nike consumers an escapist fantasy on which to cling. For those reasons, I’m sure Madison Avenue loves it, but what about the message it send to the kids on soccer fields and little league baseball diamonds in Madison, Wisc.?
Of course, Nike’s intent was to make Tigermania fashionable again and jumpstart a long-dormant cash machine of Woods-branded merchandise, not to surround their most values-challenged spokesperson with a new controversy about values. But a high-impact ad campaign involves the input of human copywriters, account managers, marketing professionals and public relations heads involved in the creation of the piece. Surely one of them recognized that high public awareness of Woods’ personal peccadillos would easily mingle with the copy to create a message that has nothing to do with athletic success?
The values implicitly communicated in the ad – at best that winning in sports distracts attention from one’s transgressions against others, at worst that it gives one credit on account to commit them – are corrosive and warrant a recall of the ad by Nike.
How does Nike and Tiger’s message sound when set against the backdrop of the Steubenville rape? Across the country, many confused souls still sympathize with the rapists and those who stood by, watched and filmed the sexual assault of an unconscious girl. The convicted rapists and many of those who cheered them on were high school athletes with bright futures. Their apologists can now rejoice in Nike’s new mantra of absolution through athletic domination. Boys, suit up, get back on the field and score. Nike and Tiger said it: “Winning takes care of everything.”
Nike should go back to its roots and just do it. Pull the ad.