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'Winning' Tiger Woods ad: Thumb in the eye or reinvention of flawed hero? (+video)

An edgy Nike ad that seems to minimize the effects of Tiger Woods’s admitted philandering plays on a bedrock American idea: Winning is (almost) everything. But the more powerful appeal may be the redemption of a sports hero.

Tiger Woods: Is winning everything?
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A new Nike ad playing on troubled global golf champ Tiger Woods’s resurgence on the green and off suggests that “Winning takes care of everything.”

As many ads are intended to do, the print spot has elicited immediate reaction. Of course, it was only four years ago that Mr. Woods’s famed career crashed and burned after he admitted to philandering with a string of women. The ordeal made global news, scared sponsors away, led to the end of his marriage, and apparently wrecked his golf game.

On one hand, the ad plays into a storyline that Nike would like to emphasize: A quitter, Woods clearly is not. His struggles back to the top – mostly made from green to green, often with frustrating results – add a compelling new dimension to his recent public image as someone dealing with human frailties and flaws. So, too, does his new relationship with world and Olympic champion downhill skier Lindsey Vonn.

But many critics would disagree with the sentiment of the ad, suggesting that it is crass, tasteless, and minimizes to Woods’ moral transgressions. Moreover, it may be a risky move by Nike to say only winning matters when, in fact, many “consumers care about how you play the game” – and act off the field, Allen Adamson, a New York brand manager, tells the Spectator newspaper of Hamilton, Ontario.

Nike is clearly seeing the potential for a positive response to what’s become an emerging story of personal and athletic reinvention, especially given the amount of time that’s passed since Woods's downfall. After winning two PGA Tour events, he is ranked No. 1 in the world going into next month's Masters.

While Woods’s pre-affairs profile seemed almost too perfect – a superhuman golfer groomed from his toddler days, married to a former Swedish model – his profile today has a different sort of appeal, some psychologists say.


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