Most of us are Tiger Woods fans. But let's face it: He has to be the world's oldest young man. And that's not a knock. How can a 24-year-old demonstrate athletic talent and skills that defy description? How can such a young man have so much poise, confidence and maturity? He is phenomenal.
He is the new champion of athletic endorsements and a significant media magnet and magnate. According to Forbes magazine's 2000 annual Celebrity 100 list, Woods has replaced Michael Jordan in the earnings column for sports endorsements.
Tiger made $47 million in 1999, which ranks seventh on Forbes' list. Jordan earned $40 million.
So there's every reason for Buick, as it did last December, to join the ranks of Nike, American Express, Titleist and other companies who dearly love their affiliation with Tiger Woods, no matter what it costs. Because whatever it costs, it is worth it.
Not only is Buick's logo emblazoned on the bag Tiger's caddy carries - which almost gets as much TV camera time as Tiger - but in new TV commercials, the young golfer is pitching cars for a division that has been labeled an old person's domain.
McCann Erickson, Buick's ad agency, produced three spots with Tiger. All are 30s and one has a 60-second version. Only one is on the leader board. One is playing to its handicap and is on the bubble. And one - well, it's a duffer and shouldn't have made the cut, much less have been allowed to tee off.
The human side
On the leader board and best of the three is the commercial called 'Training Camp.' It lets the viewer see the human side of Tiger while simultaneously selling Buicks.
In it, Tiger makes fun of himself by teaching the adult golfing campers at the 'Tiger Woods Training Camp' how to emulate his shticks and ticks - the hunkered-down posture surveying the next putt; the exuberant pump of the arm and clenched fist after sinking it; the playful bouncing of a golf ball dexterously on the head of a club; and the obvious photo op of holding up and kissing the winner's trophy. And, by the way, there's a tip on how to drive - as in roadway, not fairway - the same way he does.
The commercial delivers a good feeling and attitude for Buick, the PGA Tour's major sponsor.
The worst of the three commercials is called 'TV Tower.' In it, the viewer is supposed to believe that two golf commentators sitting in a broadcast tower are going to predict Tiger's inability to hit an extraordinary drive of 300 yards. Big deal. He does this every day.
Hearing their rude, belittling commentary, Tiger banks a shot off the tower, making it collapse into a water hazard. He gives the wet TV guys a towel - he's too polite to belt 'em - as he drives off in his Buick.
'TV Tower' is trite, cliche-driven and, worst of all, predictable and boring. It's a commercial sextuple bogey.
Rimming the cup
The commercial on the bubble is a Buick-paid public service announcement called 'Fantasy Golf' for the Tiger Woods Foundation. It has a nice setup: An older man helps his young boy, about 9 or 10, line up a putt on the sidewalk of a nameless city. Despite many obstacles, we see the boy strike the ball and sink the putt.
It nearly plucks an emotion, but it is incomplete in establishing a good feeling or fostering a reaction. It just barely misses the target. Perhaps it was a corporate gesture of good will, but it seemed more like a payback by Buick to Tiger based on, 'Oh, I see how they got Tiger to do this.' In golfspeak, it's playing to its handicap.
That's the Tiger Woods Television Commercial Festival for this year. Buick's 'Training Camp' spot has to rank among the top three finishers - right there with the Nike spot of Tiger bouncing a golf ball off his club head and the American Express commercial that used home movies of Tiger as a kid.
Buick and McCann have used Tiger Woods' fame, personality and presence very well. In fact, far better than most celebrity jock-driven TV commercials for any product, not just cars.
Marty Bernstein's e-mail address is [email protected]