By now you've seen the commercial from Nike (NYSE: NKE). If you haven't, you've probably heard about it. Or been forwarded a parody of it.

Call me little Cindy Lou of NikeTown, because I love this commercial. Only a marketing Grinch could hate it.

Most of Nike's commercials are great, with their striking images and swoosh logo at the end. The great thing about this ad, however, was that it accomplished several things.

The commercial is emotional. Here's the voice of his deceased father asking Tiger to reflect on what he learned. If you saw Field of Dreams, you know the power of communication between a dead father and his living son. So the ad speaks to men, even though the men I know don't care what Tiger did, though they'd never admit that to their wives.  Ahem.

Then we have the commercial's viral nature. There's no way to tell if the ad geniuses knew people would add their own voiceovers and make parodies. Of course, that's what they hoped for, since it gives the ad an extended life.

All of that is excellent, but the coup de grace is that the ad got people talking. It got media coverage. And it all leads to one crowning achievement: Nike gets its brand in people's faces over and over and over again. It isn't just a clever one-off you see during the Super Bowl, despite how funny the Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD) Budweiser commercials are, or even Dave and Oprah promoting CBS (NYSE: CBS). While those ads are fine as far as they go, they aren't pervading consumer consciousness the way Nike ads can at their best.

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

No, you see or hear about this Nike ad repeatedly, and each time the word "Nike" is mentioned. I've never seen that happen with an ad from Skechers (NYSE: SKX), Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX) or Heelys (Nasdaq: HLYS). In fact, I can't recall ads for any of those brands. The ubiquitous Nike brand seems to dominate the space.

In a world where sportswear is a commodity, the business becomes about differentiating your brand. That is why I would always consider the Nike juggernaut first whenever I'm thinking about adding retail stocks to my portfolio. That's the type of brand recognition that has led to Nike compounding earnings at a 32% annual clip in the five years ending May 2008.

I know Nike would help repair my image if I happen to stumble into the mud.  They will do commercials for regular folks, right?

Uh, right?

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Rick Steier owns no stocks mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.