What Tiger Woods Could Have Learned from Greg Oden

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden recently made a very public appearance–in his birthday suit. On January 26, naked pictures of Greg Oden leaked onto the Internet. Not unheard of in the celebrity world, but unusual for an NBA center. To top it off, Oden mentors kids through Oregon Mentors’ Team ODEN.

Oden’s early NBA career has been plagued by injury. Last December, a fractured patella took him out of the court for the rest of the season. Not soon afterwards, the world found out what Oden does with his spare time (besides mentor kids).

Greg Oden takes naked pictures of himself. Or he did, over a year ago. He sent them to his girlfriend at the time. They recently surfaced on World Star Hip Hop.

One day later, Oden publicly apologized. “I would like to apologize to everybody: Portland, the fans, the organization,” Oden told reporters on January 27. “It was very embarrassing.”

Oden’s Brand

The pictures of Oden are still up. Granted, the 22-year-old doesn’t exactly have anything to hide. But how will the naked images affect the NBA player’s brand? Here’s part of what makes Oden’s PR strategy tick.

The Newb Factor: Oden has only played pro ball for 2 years. At 22 years of age, his professional and sex lives are still an open book. He’s been out with injuries for a good part of his budding NBA career. He is still building his reputation.

In a post-Rodman, post-Bryant era, nudie pics are hardly NC-17 behavior. Oden can afford a little scandal. It gives him name recognition. Plus, it can’t hurt to be known as a man of, well, size.

The Incursion:
Oden’s ex-girlfriend posted the pictures online. This wasn’t Oden’s fault, at least not on record (not all leaks are accidents). He is, for all intents and purposes, innocent. Who can blame the guy for having an angry ex?

The Instant Apology:
One day after the photos leaked, Oden said he was sorry. He said he was embarassed. His instant reaction stopped the rumor mill from gaining too much momentum.

Tiger’s Brand

Remember Tiger Woods? Who, instead of admitting to the affair the National Enquirer had published, crashed his car into a tree? It took two weeks and implications from 12 women for Tiger to ‘fess up to his affairs.

The Legacy: Tiger Woods was a legend. Golf’s golden boy had built an image on skill and integrity. He was a responsible family man, a virtuous role model.

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Then he went and bagged all those women.

The Incursion: Tiger Woods, husband of Swedish supermodel, philanderer extraordinaire. America hates adulterers. We almost impeached one president because of it. A bunch of politicians have stepped down because of it. We hold marriage as a sacred, monogamous, heterosexual institution.

That’s some serious weight. Tiger, the All-American Icon, violated it. Multiple times. In American culture, this is a lynch-worthy infarction.

Unlike Oden, Tiger messed up. Big time.

The Delayed Reaction: Tiger has always been known as a private person. Heck, he named his $20 million yacht Privacy. So when the National Enquirer implications surfaced, he stuck to his usual protocol and kept his mouth shut.

Unfortunately, he crashed his car into a tree soon after that. He should have spoken to police at this point. He should have come clean, apologized, hung his head to the media after that. He should have nipped it in the bud. But he didn’t. As a result, his privacy came back to haunt him.

What Tiger Could Have Learned from Greg Oden

Tiger held on too closely to his tight-lipped PR policy. If he had apologized instantly, the way Greg Oden had, the scandal wouldn’t have reached epic proportions. It would have hurt, yes. He probably still would have lost sponsors. But epic? No. Just painful.

Also, Greg Oden is capitalizing on sexy. Granted, he’s a young, single guy with a nascent reputation. Tiger is a father, an icon, a former good guy. But Tiger needs a new image that doesn’t have ruin written all over it.

Why not embrace the wildcat, do more of what he did with Annie Leibovitz in February’s Vanity Fair? If the world saw Tiger embracing his inner bad boy, he’d have a new image to work from. Heads would shake, fingers would point, but Tiger would have an image again. He could even play it out for a while, then go good again, kind of like Britney Spears did.

America hates adultery, but we have also proven that we are willing to forgive. It’s time for Tiger to learn a little from young’uns like Greg Oden.

Note: Tiger Woods is still doing great things, albeit in private. He recently donated $3 million to Haiti earthquake relief.

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.