If Nike wants to stay in the golf business, it needs to stay with Tiger Woods. And Tiger Woods still needs to be rehabilitated in the public imagination. So the somewhat creepy Tiger Woods ad that Nike just started airing makes sense.
That's how a former ad exec explained it to me this afternoon, anyway.
"Nike and Tiger Woods have become essentially inseparable," Neal Burns, who is now a professor at the University of Texas, told me this afternoon. "He is Nike."
Burns, who was a partner at Carmichael Lynch Advertising in the '80s and '90s, likes the new ad. Unlike that press conference earlier this year, the new ad really makes Woods look contrite, Burns said.
Of course, that doesn't tell us anything one way or the other about how Woods really feels. But that's not the point.
"You know that the guy who was running the camera and the director worked hard to get the look they wanted to have," Burns said. "Nike is trying to sustain its investment, and I think they are doing a very good job."
A bunch of other brands — Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade — have cut their ties to Woods, today's WSJ points out. The video game maker Electronic Arts has kept its relationship with him, and just brought ought its own new Woods ad. (Of course, when you sell a video game called "Tiger Woods PGA Tour", you don't have much choice about maintaining the relationship.
The EA and Nike ads are a small step back for Woods, Kevin Adler, president of a sports business consulting firm called Engage Marketing told the WSJ. "The bigger step, which will take longer, will be him signing a non-golf-associated endorsement deal," he said. "I don't see that happening in the near future."