SBD/November 2, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Rory McIlroy's On-Course Success, Off-Course Decisions Lead To Global Brand Appeal

McIlroy lateley has been fielding questions about a rumored Nike deal
Rory McIlroy has “suddenly gone from merely a standout golfer to a global brand,” according to Alan Shipnuck of SI. McIlroy in the past year "grew up, as a person and a player.” His “metamorphosis began four months after the Open, when he fired his headline-making agent, Chubby Chandler, and went to a largely unknown boutique firm run by a dapper Dubliner named Conor Ridge.” The switch was a “bold move by a young man ready to take control of his career.” That McIlroy is “so different” from Tiger Woods in “so many ways has only stoked the public's fascination.” Ridge said, "The fans, the media, corporate sponsors, the tours -- they all want their piece. Tiger dealt with it by slamming down the shutters. That's not Rory's way. We're still struggling to find the proper balance." When McIlroy in May was “mired in his slump, he committed to play a heavy slate of tournaments this fall in Asia, thinking he might need them to salvage his season.” Last weekend's BMW Masters in Shanghai was the “first stop, and every detail of his trip was negotiated as part of the appearance fee, from a pretournament table tennis match for the cameras to hitting a golden golf ball at the glitzy, gaudy opening ceremony.” Shipnuck notes McIlroy during last weekend's tournament "was dodging questions" about a potential endorsement deal with Nike. The rumors of a 10-year, $250M Nike deal "began in the nether regions of the Internet -- golf industry message boards -- and quickly became accepted fact.” An alliance with Nike “makes sense in the context that Woods's longtime benefactor wants to own the dominant athlete in every sport, and McIlroy is that guy.” Such a “megadeal would give McIlroy the financial freedom to say ‘no’ more often but put him in the maw of the machine that helped create a public life for Woods that proved unsustainable” (SI, 11/5 issue).

THE BUDDY SYSTEM: In Jacksonville, Garry Smits wrote perhaps Woods “was a good recruiter” for Nike in courting McIlroy. The two have been “in the same group five times during the PGA Tour Playoffs and recently competed in an exhibition in China -- getting along like lifelong buddies each time.” The McIlroy deal “marks the third time in 12 years that the No. 1-ranked player in the world has left Titleist for Nike.” Meanwhile, there are reports that Titleist endorser Nick Watney “may also leave for Nike at the end of the year” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/1).
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