TIGER – Nike’s “Dark Knight”

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There will be a lot of people staking their claims about knowing a lot when it comes to brand endorsements. Even though everyone has a right to be a self proclaimed “endorsement guru”, but I personally believe that the whole Tiger Woods episode would have left even the so called marketing “maharishis” baffled and scratching their heads until they would have eventually gone bald. I am sure there would have been a gazillion questions about the whole episode, about how Tiger had fallen to a new low and how it would impact the brands he represents? A lot of people would have come out and supported the brands that stripped Tiger off their sponsorships. The brands that punished Tiger for this whole ordeal and thought that he was no more a suitable brand ambassador included Gatorade ($ 1 million deal), Accenture ($20 million deal), Tag Heuer  ($ 5 million deal), Gillette ($ 15 million deal), Electronic Arts ($ 8 million deal), Nike ($ 30 million deal) and AT &T (I am not entirely sure about the amount).

So all these brands (except Nike) made a decision which, to many marketers, seemed feasible. There was however Nike which took an altogether different route to solve this Tiger problem. But before I start discussing Nike’s solution, we have to ask ourselves that why Nike didn’t take the same route as all the other brands? Why did they have this soft corner for Tiger? A lot of people might come out and say that Nike had much more to loose, they’ve invested a lot of money on Tiger. According to BBC” Nike pays a lot of money for a tiny swoosh on Tiger’s cap and shirt”, the answer to why Nike didn’t kick Tiger in the backside lies in this statement itself. Tiger has been with Nike since 1996 and at that time he seemed as a very strong contender to become Nike’s brand ambassador. It’s been a long time since then and during this time Tiger has himself become a strong brand, a brand that I think is worth too much for Nike to let go. He is the face for Nike, “Nike golf is Tiger”. But with all this said, it has its negative too, if Tiger goes down he takes Nike with him. Nike’s share of women’s footwear declined by a whopping 15% in March as its sales slipped and its competitors (led by Reebok) surged, according to SportsOneSource (Source: Adage).

To me, Nike came up with a staggering strategy to deal with this tormenting situation and brought in perhaps the most misunderstood tool to a lot of people called “PR”. A lot of people might see Nike’s effort (the attached video) as a viral only but the fact is that it’s a PR campaign and the tool used is viral.  As per the strategy, Nike uses Tiger’s father as sort of a voice of reason and portrays that Tiger is sorry about the whole episode and in turn Nike is trying to gain some good ground. For Nike. Tiger was and is too big a brand to throw away. As I mentioned above, Tiger stands for Nike and hence a major contributor to their success. Nike’s used PR to rescue itself and portrayed Tiger as a hero who’s committed a “mortal mistake”. The strategy has raised a lot of eyebrows but to me it makes perfect sense, after all parents are the ones that step in when their children are a source of disappointment. All the other brands can surely take a page out of Nike’s book. In less than 48 hours, the video was viewed online more than 2.2 million times, drew 6,700 comments and generated more than 40 parodies that themselves drew more than 200,000 views (Source: Adage). Now that shows the impact it create but will it have an impact on the sales numbers only time will tell. For now, to me Nike loves Tiger more than they hate him and he truly is their “Dark Knight”.YouTube Preview Image

I like to think of myself as an observer and a keen one too! I rarely don't have an opinion about everything around me! They say: "Those who don't hack it in the real world, teach" but I believe that statement is not entirely true and I have been blessed to be taught by some of the most talented industry individuals one can find. I started of as a computer sciences graduate who always had the flair for media and advertising. After completing my BCS, I joined a production house as a freelance producer and then joined a TV Channel as part of their product development team. I realized then that there was something missing and therefore decided to join BlackBOX Advertising as an Account Exec (did the creative copy and concept too!) after spending an year and a half I was offered a position at RED Communication Arts as an Account Manager. I have been blessed to work on both the creative and account planning fronts. Along the way I have worked on brands such as Unilever, Faysal Bank, Pizza Hut, Adamjee Insurance, Cybernet, Eli-Lilly Pakistan, ICI Pharmaceuticals, Tapal, LG Mobile, Indus TV Network and to top them all Garnier. Currently I am working as a Director Marketing for Pielcolor in Pakistan dealing with Leather Finishing Chemicals.

  • Tyrone


    Here’s an answer I wrote to a Linkedin question related to this; Do you think companies like Accenture, Gillette, et al acted too soon to drop Tiger Woods?

    ‘I for one think brands ditching Tiger is hypocritical. The man has earned millions for you and you won’t stand by him?

    By ditching him brands are telling customers and stakeholders that hey w’ere fickle.

    What a message it would send if they stood by a troubled brand ambassador.

    Personally I loved the Accenture ads with Tiger but for the life of me I couldn’t see the connection between the company and him.

    Was Accenture trying for fame by association? Well they rode the Tiger bandwagon or should I say brandwagon?’

    BTW this was selected as the best answer by the questioner:

    ‘I think all the hand wringing is actually funny. The fact is that that last week a poll said that over 63% could care less who endorses a product. Most don’t even know.
    While its true the the “Tiger” brand has taken a beating. It won’t stay that way. Witness Martha Stewart. She went to jail for lying and she is bigger than ever.
    Once the news cycle moves on he will once more be a very strong force in the market. The fact is that we love a winner and once he returns to golf, he’ll be doing that again. Our collective memory has become extremely short.
    Talk to about this in a year.’


    Ur article was too short I was waiting for more substance to build the case for Stand by your man but none came!

    Anyway good effort!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jawad-Usman/890135122 Jawad Usman

    Hey Tyrone thank you for your valued comments, yes I agree that the article is short but the point that I wanted to discuss was that a lot of brands take endorsers for granted and sometimes don’t think about how big the endorser is or has become as a brand. Secondly I wanted to talk a little about PR and how people don’t understand it completely.

    Thank you for adding your point of view

  • http://www.lux.com.pk/ Rachel

    20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions are made b/c of word of mouth marketing

    You are beyond illiterate to be unaware of this