Advertising beyond the grave

There are few things in life I love as much as a clichéd sports ad. As I type this, I am being distracted by an old Michael Jordan commercial from Nike that ticks all the boxes. It has an inspirational soundtrack and contrived lines as we see Jordan playing basketball at his pomp. Jordan is flying through the air as he dunks the ball. Nike were advertising trainers, so why make it any more complicated than it needs to be?

Unfortunately, Michael Jordan hung up his basketball boots in 2003. Nike’s marketing department needed another golden hen to lay some eggs, which left golfer Tiger Woods as the brand’s main ambassador. It is difficult to underestimate the brand value of Tiger Woods. He tore up the status quo in golf. He is young, black, talented and never cared about the protocol of stuffy golf clubs around the world. He won a legion of fans, both young and old who cheered him every time he walked the fairway. Nike used him to sell clothing and equipment with immediate and sustained success. Then, without warning Tiger suffered a fate known to many pro golfers. He was unable, or unwilling to keep his trousers up.

After a stream of women announced the golfer had had an affair with them, Nike’s carefully nurtured golden hen became a crow in an instant. Dropped by many of his sponsors, Nike refused to follow. They knew that their man was damaged, but the embattled marketing department refused to concede defeat.

What did Tiger still have which people admired? His golf swing certainly. But crucially, he also had his family. Fans have always loved Tiger’s family. Whether that was his Philippine mother who lovingly knitted woollen covers for his golf clubs, or his former Naval officer father who taught him how to play the game. Unfortunately, four years ago Earl Woods died from a heart attack.

So what did Nike do? They decide to get a suitable old voice over from Tiger’s dead old man and put it in the ad to show how Tiger will learn from his mistakes. Marketing and ethics are uneasy bed fellows at the best of times, but Nike seems to have relinquished any sort of moral fibre to sustain their star athlete. The emotionally manipulative advert tries to win back support from people who have turned their back on Tiger by using his late father. Why not just say sorry?

See the ad below and let me know what you think..

Jonathan

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