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Nike sure knows how to build some serious buzz.
While the athletic giant’s controversial new Tiger Woods TV spot elicited mixed reactions this week, analysts and brand experts agreed that the move could pay off for both the company and the beleaguered athlete.
Howard Bragman, founder and CEO of the Fifteen Minutes agency and a longtime Hollywood publicist who deals with crisis management, said the ad was “dark, surrealistic and unusual,” but also expects it to net positive results for Nike.
“It’s probably pretty smart from a marketing point of view,” said Bragman. “Everybody is not going to like it; it certainly didn’t glorify Tiger, it almost berated him in a lot of ways. But it was very powerful, very emotional and an important part of his rehab. I suspect it’s a gamble that will pay off for Nike.”
“If anybody can pull this off, it’s Tiger Woods,” added James Gregory, CEO of consulting firm CoreBrand. “Immediately, when he had this problem, I thought ‘this would not have happened if his father were still alive.’ [His father] provided the vision for Tiger and suddenly he’s off his path. Now this ad comes out and it’s really going to get attention.”
Still, Gregory added that due to the nature of the ad, there is always a chance for negative repercussions.
“It does have the chance to backfire and it does seem opportunistic,” he said. “[But Woods] had nothing to lose at this point.”
Industry analysts agreed the ad could be a step in the right direction for Nike.
“[The brand] had to think of a way to do something [to repair the image of] their star athlete,” said Christopher Svezia, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group. “For them to come up with a way to draw some recognition to the brand itself, to the player and to the situation, I would say it’s pretty tasteful and smart.”
Ultimately, Woods’ fate might depend on how he well he performs on the course, said Sam Poser, an analyst with Sterne Agee.
“Nike is a brand of champions, so they are clearly counting on him returning to championship form, and he certainly has the ability to do it,” he said. “[The ad] is getting Nike’s name out there. It’s creating a stir and it’s good publicity [for the brand].”