With his personal scandals finally in the rear-view mirror, Tiger Woods and sponsor Nike may be courting controversy with a new ad declaring, "Winning takes care of everything."
Nike Golf released the congratulatory ad on Facebook after Mr. Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational Monday. The win helped Mr. Woods return to the world No. 1 ranking he held for 281 consecutive weeks before news of extra-marital affairs in late 2009 sent him into a personal and professional nosedive.
The ad in question shows Mr. Woods eyeing a putt with a quote from him reading, "Winning takes care of everything." Underneath, Nike stamps the word "Victory" alongside the Swoosh logo.
Crisis PR expert Mike Paul thinks it's dangerous and "brazen" for Woods and Nike to risk a backlash from fans and media at a time when both their brand reputations are rebounding. Woods has put the focus squarely back on his improving golf game, not his personal life. Nike is bouncing back from the image disaster with disgraced former endorser Lance Armstrong.
"This could get fans fired up. Woods is better than that. Nike is better than that . . . .Every human being who has a heart, as well as a head, understands that's its always about more than just winning," Mr. Paul said.
Nike could not be reached for comment.
The Nike Golf post drew a mixed reaction from followers on Facebook.
"No. Winning does not take care of everything. Nice message that you are sending to children," wrote one commenter. "So it doesn't matter what kind of person you are, what your morals are, as long as you win? What a crock."
But others congratulated Woods on returning to the top of the golf world.
"Winning takes care of everything? LOL…You need to re-think that," wrote another commenter. "But let's share in the excitement of Tiger being back with a roar. He is playing awesome and I am happy for him and golf for it."
Mr. Woods' professional and personal lives have been on a roller-coaster ride the last three years. In 2009, he was the world's richest, most popular athlete and biggest athletic endorser on Madison Avenue. But widespread media coverage of his extramarital flings with porn stars led to a divorce from wife Elin Nordegren, the exit of sponsors such as Accenture and Gatorade and the loss of his World No. 1 ranking in 2010. He struggled with injuries and fell as low as No. 58 in the world standings.
But the 37-year old golf superstar has won five tournaments over the past year and is taking aim at his 5th green jacket at the upcoming Masters tournament. Mr. Woods has also been picking up some new sponsors such as Rolex while holding on to his longtime deals with Nike, EA Sports and others.
Meanwhile, Mr. Woods and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn recently went public on Facebook with news of their relationship. The cute pictures of the smiling Mr Woods with All-American Ms. Vonn could humanize Mr. Woods' battered personal image -- and make him more attractive to sponsors on Madison Avenue.
One Facebook commenter even offered copywriting advice for the Swoosh: "Nike missed an opportunity. Should have posted the pic of Tiger and Lindsay Vonn laughing together and said 'Love Takes Care of Everything' with the same 'Tiger Woods, World No.1.'