Names like Pele, Wayne Gretzski, Michael Jordan and Venus Williams are among the super-elite of athletic ability and are the kind of athletes that come along very rarely. Tiger Woods is, undoubtedly, a member of this club and is an athlete that changed the sport of golf incredibly. Having turned pro following a glittering amateur career, there was huge excitement about the young Tiger Woods. Nike could not ignore this excitement and knew they needed this athlete.
Nike celebrates the athlete. In fact, from the list above they have more than half of the sporting legends mentioned. Golf was a sport that Nike weren’t very well known for and so with the emergence of Tiger as a professional golfer they saw and seized upon their chance. Although Nike Golf was already an arm of the brand, Tiger was the superstar they needed to truly become a force in the golfing market.
Here’re 5 facts you need to know:
At the age of 20 Tiger exploded into golf the way he explodes into impact on a drive. At the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996 he played his first pro event and was kitted out in the swoosh. Mr Nike Golf had arrived, as he stood at his first presser he said ‘candidly’ “I guess hello world”. The perfect set-up for the first of many Tiger Woods-related ad campaigns. The endorsement had been set-up for years before this though. Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, had been in discussion with Nike for many years prior.
Tiger had signed a deal of over $40 million with Nike before even hitting a ball as a pro! Having finished 41st in the 1995 US Masters, as an amateur, Nike knew Tiger was the future of golf. Tiger won the 1997 US Masters with a record score of -18 and then the 1999 PGA Championship. Nike then signed him to a second deal worth $100 million over 5 years in 2000!
The money shot. Remember that shot at the 16th during the final round of the 2005 US Masters? In a moment of sporting greatness that even the best ad executives at Nike couldn’t have dreamed of, Tiger’s ball trickled into the hole and that Nike swoosh was in perfect view. This sequence of events was worth an estimated $125,000 in free advertising when it went out live!
The famous Nike commercial of Tiger juggling a ball was not planned! During filming for a much more mundane and frankly clichéd advert, Tiger was spotted by the advert director juggling a ball. David Liman, the director, grabbed a standard camera and asked Tiger to juggle the ball whilst being filmed. He was told he had to do it for 28 seconds, on the fourth take he fired the ball through the air exactly on the 28 second mark. The advert was born!
We can’t possibly end this post without talking about the famous red Nike shirt. Why does Tiger wear red on the final day? Well it’s because his mother told him to! In reply to fan mail on his website he said: “I wear red on Sundays because my mom thinks that that’s my power color, and you know you should always listen to your mom.” Tiger wore blue on the final day in his younger years. One day his mum, a Buddhist, told him that red was a powerful colour according to her religion and that he should wear red. He did, he won, and the rest is glorious golfing history!
Panic ensued when Nike announced they were leaving the hardware market last year. Remember, and this is important, that Nike are not leaving golf, they are just changing strategy. This move goes to show just how important a successful Tiger Woods is to Nike and golf in general. He is not the greatest ever, by major victories, but he is the most dominant.