Now, as one of the edgier TV marketers, it shows up the day before Woods return to the Masters with a commercial that features a voiceover of his late father, Earl Woods.
Nike won't be selling many running shoes with this ad. The company's intent seems to be to get people to talk more about Woods -- and maybe Nike -- in any context. That goal has been fulfilled, with almost a million views on YouTube so far.
The commercial is a virtually static black-and-white shot of a sullen Woods, listening -- in theory -- to his father's inquiries. Woods blinks some -- but that's it. (This static shot also seems a good anti-fast-fowarding move for the DVR).
Does it sell compassion, guilt with sympathy, forgiveness after recklessness... or golf caps? Some people already believe this ad is disrespectful and repugnant, exploiting what it shouldn't.
TV marketing executives say the American public can be a forgiving lot. Woods has come clean, apologized, and offered contriteness for his "horrible" behavior.
And, now, for good measure, Nike offers up even more. Nike doesn't want to move on yet to Woods swinging his clubs, making birdies and pumping fists. That's right. We haven't forgotten.
While the ad is intriguing, it's also a bit disturbing. You keep watching because it also seems like a commercial put together on a dare. And so you wait for an interesting kicker. But none comes.
Beyond the boldness of the commercial, Nike will need to offer some insight into revamping the Tiger Woods brand.
The crux of the message has the senior Woods asking young Woods -- "Did you learn anything?" There is no answer here; just more sullenness from Woods. At the end we see just the Nike swoosh but no text, no "Just do it."
Maybe the answers are obvious. Then again, maybe another commercial is coming. But will this one also sell golf balls?