Nike releases Tiger Woods ad featuring late father

Nike aired a new TV commercial Wednesday featuring Tiger Woods
and the voice of his late father, an edgy move that calls out his
personal problems on the eve of his return to competitive golf.

The ad aired on ESPN and the Golf Channel just one day before
the Masters begins.

In the stark, black-and-white ad, a solemn Woods looks directly
into the camera without speaking while a recording of his late
father is heard, speaking about taking responsibility.

“Did you learn anything?” Earl Woods says.

Woods is returning to golf after a leave that followed
revelations of infidelities and a stint in rehab. The ad marks the
first TV ad for Woods, who had been the face of many companies,
since his problems surfaced in late November.

Nike Inc. is one of the few sponsors to stand by Woods during
his troubles. Woods is the face of the company’s golf line and will
be using its products when he plays in Augusta, Ga. on
Thursday.

“We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive
golf, the ad addresses his time away from the game using the
powerful words of his father,” Nike said in a statement.

Nike typically doesn’t shy away from mentioning athletes’
troubles in its ads, experts say. The company has stuck by other
athletes with personal problems, such as basketball star Charles
Barkley, who famously said in one ad he shouldnt’ be a role
model.

Other advertisers can get away with not mentioning their
spokespeople’s problems, but not when the athlete is this famous or
when the scandal is so public, said John Sweeney, director of
sports communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Some may
question using Woods’ father or mentioning the golfer’s personal
problems, but it makes sense from Nike’s perspective.

“You’ve stayed with the man, how do you re-engage?” Sweeney
said. “It’s not a question of what we would like to do under
perfect circumstances, it’s like we’ve stayed the course, he’s
back, how do we address it?”

The ad also plays off Woods’ prodigy aura by using his father,
who is partly credited with Woods’ early success.

Woods has repeatedly said since re-emerging into public life
that he strayed from the values instilled in him by his
parents.

In the commercial, Woods stands outside, on what appears to be a
golf course, with the trademark Nike “swoosh” visible on his dark
hat and sweater vest. He barely blinks, while Earl Woods is heard
saying in the background:

“Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive to promote
discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to
find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?” the
elder Woods is heard saying while his son looks solemnly into the
camera.

Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., said the ad was created by
Wieden+Kennedy, an advertising agency based in nearby Portland,
that the company has partnered with for years.

Woods had been the sports world’s biggest moneymaker and was the
first $1 billion earner.

But he lost top endorsements from companies such as Accenture
LLP and AT&T Inc. as the scandal unfolded. Other companies like
Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette unit, didn’t drop him outright,
although it stopped featuring him in advertisements.

But companies more closely linked to his golf ability, such as
Nike, memorabilia maker Upper Deck Co. and video game maker
Electronic Arts Inc. stuck by him.

Experts say it will be a year or more before any major new
companies sign Woods. Even then, it will depend on whether he can
return to his winning ways.

On the Web:

Nike’s Tiger Woods ad: http://tinyurl.com/yj3alxy

Skidmore contributed to this report from Portland, Ore.