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When Ads Go Strange: Nike Connects Tiger and His Deceased Father


An illustrious golfing career and several bouts of infidelity culminate in the weirdest ad of an athlete's life.


"Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I wanna find out what your thinking was. I wanna find out what your feelings are, and, did you learn anything."

Those are the words spoken by Tiger Woods' late father Earl in a solemn and overly bizarre ad for Nike (NKE). The golfing superstar stands rigid while facing the camera, wearing a maudlin expression as the camera slowly pushes in, and we hear Earl's voice indirectly address Tiger's infidelity, his struggle with a crippling sex addiction, and his tumultuous relationship with the tabloids. The Nike logo flashes and... SCENE!

Some deemed it powerful. Others said it was exploitative. And many responded with a simple "Huh?"

Tiger's troubles began in November when the National Enquirer accused nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel of having an affair with the golf pro. A short while later, Tiger was involved in a car crash which, as depicted by the Chinese media using extremely violent Sims characters, may have stemmed from a physical altercation with his wife, Elin. Tabloid coverage began hitting a fever pitch as more women came forth saying they've had extramarital affairs with Tiger -- one of whom, cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, produced a voicemail message by the athlete asking her to remove his number from his phone because his wife "went through his phone." Oh, and he made sure to incriminate himself by using his name.

After scandalous text messages, public apologies, a stint in rehab, and dropped endorsement deals with Gatorade (PEP), AT&T (T), and TAG Heuer, Tiger was ready to leave his indiscretions and return to his passion. (The one with the clubs.) And upon his arrival to the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament, Tiger seemed eager to play a few holes and just get away from the media attention... on national television.

Too bad the ad aired the day before.

Earl's words drudged up everything Tiger was trying to leave behind. The affairs, the press conferences, his family's heartache -- not to mention his father's battle with prostate cancer and heart failure. In fact, the spot is reportedly the "final straw" for Elin and the reason behind her filing a divorce. And making matters worse, seeing as how Earl passed in 2006, those words were in no way related to Tiger's current scandal and weren't even directed to Tiger in the first place.

The excerpt comes from Buena Vista's (DIS) 2004 documentary Tiger: The Authorized DVD Collection and features Earl describing his parenting style as compared to Tiger's mother, Kultida "Tida" Woods. His full quote is:

"Authoritarian. Yeah, Tida is very authoritative. She is very definitive. 'Yes' and 'No.' I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I wanna find out what your thinking was. I wanna find out what your feelings are, and, did you learn anything."

Despite the disparity of meaning behind those words and how many would accuse both Tiger and Nike of exploiting Earl's memory as a marketing gimmick, Tiger stood behind the TV spot.

"I think it's very apropos. I think that's what my dad would say," Tiger said. "It's amazing how it -- how my dad can speak to me from different ways, even when he's long gone. He's still helping me. I think any son who has lost a father and who meant so much in their life, I think they would understand the spot."

Doesn't sound like Tiger and much of the public are on the same wavelength. Minyanville requested an interview with a Nike representative to hear the company's thoughts to the public's reaction to the ad. In response, Nike's global public relations manager Beth Gast wrote in an email, "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." Gast declined any further comment.

But comments on the ad are far from few. Since the ad aired, YouTube (GOOG) has exploded with parodies of the spot featuring the audio from his harried voicemail, Calvin Klein's (PVH) Obsession ad, and "David After the Dentist." But arguably the best comes from the folks behind one of Mystery Science Theater 3000's followup projects, Rifftrax, and features audio from one of the worst movies ever made, The Room:

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