Thursday, April 8, 2010

This Just Might Be The Worst Marketing Idea Ever

Ok. Ok. .... Ok. For a while I have been considering writing an ode to what I consider the greatest sports-related commercial of all time, and others that I think are in the discussion, and while I have decided that I will bring them up, albeit later in this post, I came across, at work last night, a commercial that all of you will be bombarded with this coming weekend.

See, some of you might have heard that there's this golf tournament this weekend. I'm pretty unfamiliar, but apparently there's a lot of money and some green jackets involved. In any event, not only is there a golf tournament this weekend, but this Tiger Woods fellow is making his return to the tour after taking several months off to patch up family issues that resulted with his own personal infidelities. Now, I've touched on these topics and how I think some of -- or really all -- of the issues Tiger has to deal with are best left to him and his wife.

After all, these are his problems, and they are personal problems and they're nobody's business but his and Elin's. However, while I still believe the job of working out his marriage is not something the public needs to be involved in, despite Tiger's obviously manufactured and uninspired public campaign to help his image, the irrational passionate part of my brain wants to smack Tiger in the face after witnessing this.

This, and I don't think I'm speaking too irrationally here, might be the dumbest commercial in history.

We can argue all day and night over what Tiger owes the public. Some idiots think he owes us the world, while others realize that it is not for us to judge and Tiger, shockingly, is probably not the first professional athlete to be wildly unfaithful to his wife. But I think we can all agree on this.

Cheating on your wife is wrong.

Yup. There. Done. We've established the base fact at play here. It is wrong for you to cheat on your spouse. I think that's pretty clear. And Tiger did just that. Now he didn't do it to all of us, which is why he owes all of us nothing. However, it's either asking an awful lot of us, or it tells us that Nike thinks we're all stupid, to introduce an ad over the weekend of the Masters that asks us to cheer for Tiger out of hopes that we will see a tragic hero rise like a Phoenix.

Um, no. Sorry. I'm not jumping on this bandwagon. I understand that Nike has spent billions marketing this man, and I'm sure they're plenty richer for it, but asking us all to immediately love him again because his late father is a more emotionally conscious person than he is an outlandish request. It's bad enough that milllions, myself included, will tune in this weekend just to watch Tiger struggle to make the cut in Augusta after six months off.

This commercial is Nike asking us to forgive Tiger for his transgressions, and while America is a generally forgiving nation, and I suspect years from now this incident will be a footnote for Woods, who incidentally was awarded Golfer of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America this week, asking us to forgive for no real reason is ridiculous. As I've said before, Woods doesn't really require our forgiveness, but that doesn't mean the public should go back to respecting him because the swoosh tells us he's a changed man.

Whether or not Tiger owes us anything, or whether or not he's changed, however, simply isn't the point here. This was a completely unnecessary advertisement that simply can only make Tiger look vapid and hubristic for appearing in it and make Nike look foolish for making it. And besides, how could Tiger possibly take himself seriously as he stared into that camera.

Your guess is as good as mine.

If this ranks as the dumbest sports commercial of all time, however, from a company that usually produces great ones, I have spent an inordinately large amount of time lately sifting through the great ones. I do think there is an interesting connection, though, in that all of the great commercials that come to mind involve Michael Jordan -- and if Tiger Woods was Nike and Gatorade's It Man of the 2000s, MJ was most certainly the superstar of the 1990s.

Interestingly though, if Woods' goal is to have the popular influence on golf that Jordan did on the NBA, and there certainly is something to be said for how the two each transcended their sport in similar fashion, there is a lesson to be learned. And that lesson is that Jordan shows personality in his popular advertising. Now, Jordan was no saint, and he has plenty of varied skeletons in his closet, but while Tiger only smiles and screams in pictures and after winning tournaments, Jordan showed a playful side in public, such as in his famous Big Mac-driven game of H-O-R-S-E with Larry Bird.

Because MJ showed off his fun side with ads like that -- or his dramatically unfortunate turn in Space Jam -- it gave him currency to display his competitiveness without reproach and perhaps bought him capital when the public became confronted with his mistakes. It's reasons like that why when this commercial came out in 2002 featuring an older Jordan facing himself in one-on-one, we were less turned off by his overt competitiveness than we were in awe of the man we've loved both as a young player and an aging superstar.

And what was the ultimate example of why we loved MJ? It's three simple words: "Be Like Mike". You may have guessed from that, as well as the embedded video below, that the 1992 Gatorade commercial with Jordan that simply tells us to "Be Like Mike" is, in my opinion, the greatest sports commercial of all time. The song is great, the slogan is so catchy that we still say it 18 years later even if we don't remember what it advertised, and the ad shows us both the champion and the fun-loving star.

These are the aspects of Jordan that made him a hero. From start to finish, "Be Like Mike" paints Jordan so positively in mutliple facets that we don't just love him. We want to love him. The juxtaposition of Jordan with the children, who are playing for the love of the game, gives us the implication that Jordan is, himself, a child at heart. And if that doesn't drive the point home enough, there are cuts to Jordan laughing hysterically with his buddies. The commercial was so good that it inspired a sequel with personalities ranging from Chris Berman to Mia Hamm to Bugs Bunny and, peculiarly, John Popper from Blues Traveler.

Manufactured? Sure. But that doesn't matter. "Be Like Mike" is 60 seconds of brilliance that made us get a song stuck in our head, want to be children and fall in love with Michael Jordan. And to think, all he had to do was laugh in front of us. Perhaps if Tiger had taken some notes, he wouldn't have had to make any commercials asking for our forgiveness.

1 comment:

  1. It's the talk of the course, the news, and the water cooler. Wieden Kennedy does it again.

    And having worked on a brand Tiger endorsed, he and his team were probably consulted on the idea and signed off, but he didn't create the idea nor did he likely push for a commercial to be done.