Tiger Woods Levitates His Brand Even Further

YouTube Clip for EA Sports Responds to 'Jesus Shot' Video

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Tiger Woods can do intricate golf-ball juggling maneuvers for Nike, drive the Buick brand from sleepy to sleek, and transform shaving with a Gillette razor into manly artistry.

What marketing challenge is left? How about walking on water?
Tiger Woods 09 - Walk on Water

Amazing feat
And so he does -- for EA Sports, which today debuts its "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09" video game. Mr. Woods' water feat, however, will not be seen on the traditional media slate. The video was posted to EA's YouTube channel only. It shows Mr. Woods smacking a ball into a pond, where it lands on top of a lily pad. He sizes up the situation, takes off his shoes and socks, rolls up his pant legs a bit and saunters out onto the pond. He chips, creating a little water spray, and the ball lands on the green and plops right into the hole.

The video is actually posted as a response to an almost year-old original YouTube clip by Levinator25, also known as Penn State University film student Bryan Levi. In his homemade 30-second video slugged "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 Jesus Shot," Mr. Levi exposes a glitch in the game where the virtual Tiger player can walk out onto the water hazard to take a shot, which of course, he chips straight into the hole.

The new online EA Woods video begins with the set-up, "Levinator25, You seem to think your Jesus Shot video was a glitch in the game." After showing off Mr. Woods' water walk, it ends with, "It's not a glitch. He's just that good."

Mr. Levi said Wieden & Kennedy contacted him by e-mail after they came up with their concept in order to buy the rights to his video and voice. Along with that payout, Mr. Levi also struck up an e-mail correspondence with EA Sports President Peter Moore, who is also a former Microsoft Xbox executive. And this morning, there was a hot-off-the-press copy of the "Woods 09" game on his doorstep.

Mr. Levi also has noticed a big uptick in views of his original video, from fewer than 50,000 views to more than 300,000, since EA's "Walk on Water" response went live. In fact, he had to turn off the automatic e-mail notification sent every time a comment is made because his mailbox filled up with a hundred or more e-mails every day.

Video 'conversations' catching on
"Video postings in response to other videos are catching on in a big way," said Carolyn Feinstein, VP-consumer marketing, EA Sports. "Instead of a big corporate response, it lets us get into the conversation the same way our consumers are."

Since it went up six days ago, EA's video has picked up almost 1.3 million viewers, along with kudos for its savvy marketing mix.

Steve Rubel, author of the Micropersuasion blog, called it "brilliant marketing," while gaming site Kotaku associate editor Adam Barenblat wrote he was speechless over what "might be one of the greatest and most controversial EA Sports viral-marketing videos ever."

EA Sports' agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, came up with concept, Ms. Feinstein said, and the production company was Motion Theory of Venice, Calif. The video -- along with a second one, "Square Peg, Round Hole" -- was shot just days after Mr. Woods won the U.S. Open in June, and just before he announced he would miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.

The second video was also posted two days ago as a response, this time to the well-known "How to Solve a Rubik's Cube" series of real instructional videos by Dan Brown. It shows Mr. Woods twisting a Rubik's Cube as he stands on the green, then placing it on the ground, and suddenly putting the now sort of ball-shaped cube into the hole. He jumps up excitedly, then yells to the camera "Solved!" (And yes, he really did putt the cube into the hole.)

Traditional ads also in the mix
EA is also promoting the "Woods 09" video golf game more traditionally, with an ad campaign running on TV and video sites. It hired Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, who puts the actors -- including both Mr. Woods and a young boy -- in front of huge green screens showing a variety of vignettes behind them that demonstrate their highlights and lowlights of playing the video game. EA used the same technique for its other big fall game, "Madden NFL 09," using sportscaster John Madden in one and another cute kid who tries to describe just what it is he likes about the game.

"The plan now is to let this thing go and see how much buzz it generates," said Ms. Feinstein. "What we're talking about a lot around here is the idea that 'I don't want to interrupt your entertainment experience to tell you what I want to tell you, but that I want to be that entertainment experience.' ... Some will succeed wildly, and some will not be as successful, and that has to be OK too."
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