New Nike Ad: ‘Earl and Tiger’

Nike made Tiger Woods a multimillionaire before he took his first swing* as a professional. There’s one of the few major sponsors to stay with him through his recent scandal.  Now, they’ve released a new ad that some are calling “creepy.”

The Telegraph‘s Murray Wardrop has the setup:

The commercial, in which a silent Woods stares into the camera while his late father’s voice asks him what he has learned (presumably from being lambasted in the media for the past four months), has received mixed reactions.

But while some critics have suggested the black and white television advert is “creepy”, experts believe it cleverly shifts attention back to the 34-year-old’s prowess on the course rather than in the bedroom.

Timed to coincide with the eve of Woods’s return to competitive golf at the Masters, the brief clip sees him back in his golfing attire and in the purity and timelessness of monochrome.

The back-to-basics theme is underpinned by the voice of Earl Woods, the driving force behind the World No 1’s rise through the sport. “Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion,” Earl Woods croaks. “I want to find out what your thinking was; I want to find out what your feelings are. Did you learn anything?”

Although directly addressing Woods’s troubled private life, the message appears to be that he has weathered the storm and is now getting back to what he originally became famous for.

Andrew Sullivan adds it to his “Creepy Ad Watch” series and summarizes it: “Nike uses the voice of Tiger’s dead father to get past the scandal and get back to selling stuff.”

Debbie Turner, though, thinks it “a very clever piece of work. After all whether people like it or loathe it they’re certainly talking about it, the benchmark of a successful commercial.”

I don’t see “creepy” and “very clever” as mutually exclusive.  It’s probably both.

But, yes, using the voice of a man’s dead father in a commercial is rather creepy.  Much less when he’s being used to scold the son.  And, frankly, Tiger’s a 34-year-old, Stanford educated, megamillionaire.  I’m not sure whether it’s relevant what his “thinking was” or even whether he’s learned anything.

Tiger’s escapades would have pleased Woods the Elder in one way:  They’ve unquestionably promoted discussion.   I tend to agree with Robert Wright and Matthew Schmitz that the discussion has been useful in shining a light on the very real harm that’s caused by selfish, bad behavior.   But I doubt that it’ll have much actual impact on reducing said behavior.

And, at the end of the day, what’ll matter to Tiger Woods fans is whether he returns to form on the golf course.  He tees off in Augusta in a few hours.  If he’s in contention for another green jacket Sunday afternoon, the scandal will become a footnote to his golf again.  If not, I don’t think there’s much either Nike or Earl Woods will be able to do to repair the damage done to Tiger’s reputation.


*Tiger Woods has, alas, achieved the dubious distinction that Bill Clinton did after the Lewinski scandal:  There’s almost nothing you can say or write that doesn’t have a double entendre.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. kth says:

    I didn’t like the ad, but probably the combination of sombre and edgy is, from a pr standpoint, the best play from a lousy hand.

  2. It has everyone talking about Nike and Tiger, so regardless of its tastlessness, creepiness, brilliance, or anyhting else, the bottom line is it worked.

  3. Wayne says:

    The commercial is a little lame. Yes like any scandal, the double entendres become more apparent. However Tiger’s scandal is not comparable to Clinton’s besides the sex and cheating involved. Tiger didn’t lie to a grand jury and wave his finger at us why denying affairs and many more differences.

    In the end, Tiger is just another sports figure that like sleeping around. Big shocker in professional sports.

  4. rodney dill says:


  5. Grewgills says:

    After all whether people like it or loathe it they’re certainly talking about it, the benchmark of a successful commercial.

    I would have thought that the relevant metric was increased sales.

    The Tiger Woods/sex addiction SP episode was great.

  6. Triumph says:

    And, frankly, Tiger’s a 34-year-old, Stanford educated, megamillionaire.

    He is also a yellow-bellied liberal. He was a huge B. Hussein Obama supporter and exhibits the typical Hollywood, east-coast values that make Democrats so vile.

    The guy not only drove drunk, cheated on his wife, exploited his dead dad, and raised funds for the first Islamic foreigner to steal the American presidency, but he also is a polytheistic anti-Christian and–in all likelihood–filled out his census form like a good 1984-style drone.

    The guy is about as liberal scum as you can get.

  7. I found the ad to be disgusting. To exploit his late father to pump up his sordid image. Like he’s not going to make enough money in the future as it was?? It’s clear where his priorities are. It’s not his family or his soul….it’s the almighty dollar. I shouldn’t be surprised.