Sports

For a brand like Nike, nothing beats an athlete with a crazy dream

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As Tiger Woods rolled in his final putt, securing victory at Augusta and claiming his long-awaited fifteenth major title, Nike was ready and primed for the magical moment.

Some 14 years after his last victory at the Masters and 11 years after his last major title, Woods now stands just three behind the greatest golfer in history, Jack Nicklaus, whose unassailable record of 18 majors is now tantalisingly within reach.

Nicklaus “18” was the crazy, impossible total that Woods set out to beat when he was just three years old. Within minutes of his win last Sunday, Nike shared an ad from its “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring an infant Woods mouthing the words “Im going to beat Jack Nicklaus”.

For Nike, this was the moment that its 23-year relationship with the golfer came full circle.

At the height of his career, Woods was making $110m per year as the worlds highest paid athlete, including $30m from Nike, according to Forbes. But after the sex scandal that shattered his reputation in 2009, sponsors couldnt dump him quickly enough.

AT&T, GM and Gillette all terminated their deals worth tens of millions of dollars within weeks, because he was no longer a good representative for their brands.

Accenture – which had sponsored Woods for six years and used his image “as a powerful metaphor for business success” – determined that he was no longer the right fit for its advertising.

And who could blame them?

The decade of injury that followed – characterised by poor performances, major surgery, further scandals, and the ignominy of falling outside the top 1,000 players in the world – suggests that these brands were all wise to cash-in when they did.

But Nike, as it often does, saw things differently.

“Theres always a risk. One of the things we always try to do when we have a big endorsement is check out the character and the pattern of the individual. But youre not going to get it right all the time, and if youre going to be in the business you have to recognise that.”

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So said Phil Knight, founder and former chief executive of Nike, in 2009 as the storm was raging around Woods.

Unlike its peers, Nike stuck with Woods when he was in the doldrums – going through major back surgery and enduring another global embarrassment when he was caught asleep at the wheel of his car, under the influence, and his mug-shot was broadcast around the world.

Nike, however, was prepared to play the long game.

As the clip shared straight after the Masters victory showed, this was a brand that believed in Woods life-long mission to surpass the Nicklaus record. And this was the moment that its long-term perspective paid off.

Woods final round at Augusta was reported to have been worth $22.5m of additional brand exposure for Nike, according to sponsorship analytics firm Apex Marketing. Nike shares were up 0.5 per cent in pre-market trading by the next day.

But more than that, this victory reinforced – in the most thrilling way – Nikes unrivalled association with elite performance and an athletes determination to “just do it”.

Over the years, Nike has had a string of issues with athletes falling from grace – Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones to name but two – and has had to address very public failings of its own.

But its recent work with Colin Kaepernick and Serena Williams, taking a proactive stance on societal issues such as race and sexism, has been good for business.

Its share price has been climbing, and surged to an all-time high of $88.73 last week.

Nike has encouraged athletes to “Dream Crazy”, exhorting Read More – Source

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