Companies & Industries

Nike stands by Tiger Woods in new ad, ruffling a few feathers

But is it really that controversial?

This week Tiger Woods regained the top spot in golf for the first time since October 2010. To celebrate, Nike tweeted out a new ad that simply said, “Winning takes care of everything.” It’s a phrase Woods has often used when asked about ever getting back to that No. 1 ranking, but we all know what it really is, right?

A not-so-subtle wink n’ nudge to the nuclear clusterf&$# of bad PR that surrounded Woods following the 2009 break-up of his five-year marriage amid revelations of his extra-marital affairs and the complete disintegration of the carefully constructed, squeaky clean image he had built over his entire career. Sponsors scrambled to jump off the quickly-sinking SS Tiger, fearing all that gossipy dirt was bound to stick to them as well. And for most, it was the right call. But Nike had built its entire existence in golf around Woods, and it wasn’t about to cash out so quickly. As evidenced by its reluctance to dump Lance Armstrong, Nike will stomach a lot for its tent-pole superstars. Just not years and years of doping. Or murder charges. But dog fighting and marriage trouble? Time (and winning) apparently heals most wounds.

So when one of its biggest spokesjocks has slowly, somewhat quietly, built his reputation back up within the sport to regain the top spot, is it really a surprise that Nike would use it as an opportunity to tweak the doubters? Sure, it might offend some people, but Nike’s marketing has always been about walking that fine line. And after all the breathless coverage of Tiger and skiing champ Lindsey Vonn’s bizarrely official relationship confirmation, it’s clear Woods is well on his way back to the positive column of the sports-celebrity continuum.

Combine that with the all the high fives for its last golf ad that paired Woods with the company’s next big golf hero Rory McIlroy, and this snarky little swipe at Tiger’s recent past will most certainly work in the brand’s favour.

Ruffled feathers? Maybe. Controversy? Perhaps. But it’s also just Nike being Nike. And it’s not as if the Swoosh hasn’t hedged its bets anyway. McIlroy can regain that No. 1 crown later this week.