TIGER – Nike’s “Dark Knight”
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”.