Tiger may trigger new trend in Japanese advertising

Tiger Woods is about to return to Japanese television screens, although not lifting another golfing trophy, as he may have wished.

Out of the top 10 in the sport, and having just pulled out of the British Open, the former star of the game has signed a contract to promote a heat rub for muscle and joint pains by a Japanese company.

"Kowa Co., Ltd., is pleased to announce the use of Tiger Woods as the image character of Antiphlogistic Analgetic Vantelin Kowa series," the Nagoya-based company said in a statement.

The commercials are due to be screened from later in July and could conceivably herald a new wave of foreign stars of the worlds of music, movies and sport appearing in Japanese adverts.

The list of people from abroad who have endorsed Japanese products in the market here is long and varied - from Jodie Foster and Leonardo DiCaprio selling the Honda Civic to Sean Connery marketing Suntory Whisky and Sylvester Stallone appearing in an advert for ham.

But the pendulum has swung back to domestic stars in more recent years.

In part, that was traced back to the advent of the internet and YouTube, which made the faintly embarrassing performances by A-list Hollywood stars accessible to viewers outside Japan.

The situation was not helped by Bill Murray sending up the stars' performances in Japan when he appeared as a celebrity on the decline pitching whisky in the movie Lost in Translation.

Singers from homegrown boy bands such as Smap and Tokio, as well as Seattle Mariners baseball star Ichiro Suzuki, have recently dominated Japan's 30-second advertising spots, but other locally based companies will be watching the results of the alliance between Tiger Woods and Kowa to gauge the impact on domestic consumers.

And if they are offering enough of a financial incentive for stars who have perhaps been down on their luck for a few months, then that might be sufficient to sign them up.

JR

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