Tiger Lands New Ad Role, as a Punch Line for a Le Tigre Billboard

Losing expensive sponsorship deals must be humbling enough for Tiger Woods, but the downward spiral of his value as a marketing symbol took a snarky new turn this week with an ad campaign unveiled by clothing company Le Tigre. While Woods' image is disappearing from campaigns run by sponsors such as Accenture (ACN), on Wednesday, the golfer's troubles became a punch line for a Le Tigre billboard looming over a New York City highway."Golf needs a tiger," the ad's copy reads, referring to the hole created by Woods' disappearance from golf after the revelation that he reportedly cheated on his wife with more than a dozen women. "Let's get back on course," the ad says.

%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% The ad, which can also be seen on Le Tigre's Website, urges consumers to buy polo shirts, with 20% of the profits going to support a golfing charity called The First Tee. According to its website, the mission of The First Tee is to introduce golf to kids "from every walk of life."

"There is ... a sport that not only continues to teach positive life lessons, but also depends on an adherence to them for its very existence," reads the site. "That sport, of course, is golf."

Sounds a bit like the sort of hero-worship Woods enjoyed before his name become synonymous with infidelity. Some of Accenture's ads featuring Wood read, "We know what it takes to be a Tiger," a statement that became unintentionally hilarious after his multiple infidelities became public.

Could Snarky Billboards Backfire?

Given that Woods' popularity has plunged along with his reputation, one might think Le Tigre's strategy could backfire. A backlash may be on the company's mind as well: A spokesperson told DailyFinance that the campaign "was not designed to take advantage of the situation; instead we see it as responding to the media story and redirecting that attention to the bigger social issues at hand."

But Le Tigre is owned by Kenneth Cole Productions (KCP), whose text-heavy and sometimes snarky ads have become classic examples of leveraging political gaffes and cultural trends. In 1992, for example, the clothing company ran an ad with Vice President Dan Quayle's picture, and the quote "Don't forget to vot," referring to Quayle's howler when he told a student to spell potato with an "e."

Indeed, pointing out the elephant on the golf course may be a stroke of genius for the polo shirt-maker: The campaign evokes both a smirk and nostalgia for those pre-Thanksgiving days when the public believed Tiger Woods represented hard work and moral fiber. And the message that the game needs a replacement for its one-time hero may drive consumers to support The First Tee and its goal of teaching kids "a positive attitude; how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences and how to define and set goals from the golf course to everyday life."

Those sound like the kind of lessons Tiger might want to revisit.
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