He tells you he made mistakes. Terrible mistakes. He'll change. He's going to be a different man. He's going to be more respectful of life and of the game. He's rehabilitating himself. He's seen that winning golf tournaments (and, one imagines, making money) is nothing when compared with the important things. You know, like family.
Oh, go on, admit it. You watched the Tiger Woods press conference on Monday (live, naturally) and thought to yourself: "Oh, maybe he's telling the truth. Maybe I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. My kids love his video game."
Then, on the eve of the U.S. Masters, Woods shows you just how much he is desperate for privacy and just how much he values family. He appears in a Nike ad that uses the voice of his dead father to sell you a hat. And some shoes. And a lovely red shirt.
Now imagine what you're thinking if you work at EA Sports. Do you look at this Nike ad and feel gratitude that another brand is attempting to confront the bad stuff so that it (and you) can sell some new stuff? You've already declared that you'll be supporting the wayward (off the tee) golfer. You've already launched PGA Golf Tour 11. And you've made a lot of money out of your association with him over the years.
But at some point do you wonder just what sort of individual sees nothing wrong with producing what some might describe as a touchingly execrable piece of spit-in-your-eye commercialism and ask yourself whether your business might be better served by finding another strategy, another face?
Perhaps if Woods' press conference hadn't been so supposedly personal, so supposedly open and human, perhaps if he had simply said: "I am who I am, it's none of your business," it might have been easier to accept his re-entry as a commercial presence.
But this ad has already enjoyed a level of scorn that is beyond expressions of disgust. "Creepy and cynical" constitutes one of the more polite reactions.
If nothing is truly out of bounds, if your dead dad's voice (taken from an unrevealed context) is merely a voiceover and your sad eyes merely signify a plea to buy another blood red shirt, then might there be a version of the EA game with a quick Tiger Woods Buddhist prayer on the first tee? Might there perhaps even be a poem from the virtual Woods to the dangerous temptations of the nightclub hostess? Or might someone at EA make the difficult decision to move on?
It's not about moralizing about Woods' private life. It's about business. It's about wondering just what kind of brand you want to be.
Does there come a point at which, regardless of how much of a winner an icon is, he is still not the sort of human that's right for a certain brand? Is there a point at which an icon's cynicism shines through so much that a brand decides to create a distance--especially a brand that markets to kids? Just at the juncture at which many people thought everyone should just move on, does this ad make a brand like EA think again?
I asked EA what the company thought. "We have no comment on the Nike ad," an EA Sports spokesperson told me in an e-mail.