Fallen hero or Everyman?

Jeremy Mullman from AdAge called me today asking my opinion on the blazingly radioactive new Nike spot, featuring Tiger Woods. Or should I say the new Tiger Woods spot featuring Nike?

You know the film. I don’t even have to link it. Tiger stares into the camera as his deceased father’s words play over him. Dad is saying something about an inquisitive nature. He asks, eerily: What were you thinking? And that’s more or less it.

But man oh man, has ‘it’ lit up the blogosphere. Everyone is talking about this commercial. The trades. News outlets. Even the drive time jocks I listen to on my way home from work played it. They played a TV spot on the radio! Talk about viral. Talk about integration.

And that is why this TVC is perhaps the most potent ad-like object I’ve seen, heard –dare I say experienced- in a long, long time. Not since Crispin, Porter & Bogusky introduced us to the homoerotic and creepy Burger King have we experienced a TVC with so much daring.

My first reaction to it was “Wow.” Then “WTF?” I was creeped out and impressed in equal measures. I told Jeremy what a lot of people told/ tweeted/ wrote a lot of other people: I don’t know whether to love it or hate it.

And that, my friends, is the definition of provocative. It not only makes you think about Tiger Woods, it makes you think about everything: sex, morals, race, sports, integrity, death, advertising, pop culture and, yes, maybe even Nike.

There is no category at Cannes for something like this. Otherwise it would win. Have to. But “30-second TVC” does not do it justice. If anything this thing functions more like a documentary, a snapshot of our culture as it is right now, for better and for worse.

Laurence Holmes from The Score asked his listeners if seeing Tiger this way, as a flawed man, actually makes him more real, as opposed to the robotic golfer we’d come to know. The answer is unequivocally, yes.

Despite his gambling and womanizing, Michael Jordan has remained a legend. As have Babe Ruth and Mohammed Ali. Tiger was on that pedestal. But not anymore. Win or lose, Tiger has now become part of the human race. He is like your brother-in-law who fucked up his marriage by screwing his secretary. He is like you for lying about Vegas. He is like a lot of us, which means he is…likable.

I know it sounds perverse. Here’s a guy who cheated and lied and let us all down. But having fallen, he is getting back up. Or something. Who really knows?

But one thing is for sure, whereas before I admired, respected and envied Tiger Woods; now I can like him because he is, after all, no better than me.

Nike and Wieden & Kennedy made their considerable reputation by making Gods out of athletes. Now they have done one better. They have shown us God in our own image. It’s not pretty but it’s real.

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Mullman on Tiger in AdAge

Ad of the Day, Adweek

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