A Controversy Wins in Sports Marketing

Controversial ads are nothing new. And every so often, this risky business pays off for a brand.

Take for example, Nike’s latest Tiger Wood’s ad, "Winning Takes Care of Everything."

The ad proves that Nike always believed Tiger Woods would return to being the number one golfer in the world. The quote from the ad is actually from 2009, as Tiger was coming off a broken leg and struggling to find his form.

So, the Monday morning when he topped the list again recently, it was no accident that Nike released this ad. Surprise is likely the intended reaction the ad agency and Nike want from it.

The result? You’ll remember the ad. You’ll remember Nike. You’ll remember Tiger Woods and you’ll remember that he’s back to number one.

Despite the offense many people may take interpreting it as Tiger thumbing his nose at critics who have focused on his extramarital affairs and inconsistent play, there’s something Nike can hang its hat on. The ad speaks a certain truth.

Let’s face it. For sports marketing, winning does take care of everything. Remember NBA star Kobe Bryant being arrested and exonerated? Or, how about NFL’s Ray Lewis once being charged with accessory to murder? Oh you know, he was just the most recent super bowl MVP.

Nike wants – and needs to – cash in on Tiger’s new ranking. In the $10 billion golf industry, Nike holds only about a 7 percent share of the business. Being underdog is not a familiar place for the company.

So, with huge investments in sponsoring golf’s number one and two (Tiger and Rory McIlroy), Nike’s primary goal is to increase its market share. And getting noticed is the perfect way to do this. This ad does that while serving as a reminder to the average golfer that Nike is the preferred brand of golf’s very best, and should be for you, too.

John Yorke

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Tags: Advertising, Branding, Loyalty, Public Relations, Strategy

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