SBD/January 14, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike Golf Officially Announces Signing Of McIlroy, Immediately Releases New TV Ad

McIlroy and Woods hold the top two spots in the Official World World Golf Ranking
Nike today unveiled a new TV spot featuring golfers Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods after the announcement that McIlroy had signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with the company. The 60-second ad titled "No Cup is Safe" was created by Wieden & Kennedy and is set to air Jan. 16-21 on ESPN and Golf Channel in the U.S., on TSN in Canada, and on Sky Sports in Europe. Woods and McIlroy in the spot are seen on a driving range taking turns trying to one-up each other by making shots into a variety of different cups (Nike). GOLF.com's Alan Shipnuck wrote today's announcement was the golf world's "worst-kept secret." The real challenge for McIlroy, who will play a "bag full of Nike clubs, ... may be metaphysical, not technical." The Nike deal "validates, and completes, his transformation from a mere golfer to an international superstar." There already was "pressure to follow up last season's five-victory, player-of-the-year campaign." Now the "spotlight will burn even brighter." An "intriguing question is where this new deal leaves McIlroy on the larger sports landscape." He "certainly now ranks among the most lavishly paid endorsers." Rumors for months had "circulated about the scope of the would-be Nike deal, with the Irish press bandying about the numbers" 10 years and $250M. Industry sources said that last year "two other suitors presented McIlroy with deals in the range of five years and $50 million, but those were dismissed as not even in the right ballpark" (GOLF.com, 1/13).

THE COMPANY'S NEXT GLOBAL ICON: Sports Business Group President David Carter said Nike believes that McIlroy "might be a global icon." Carter: "Nike's not looking at this as a domestic play. They see the global marketing value and they want to resonate around the globe. This is a real important signing for them to grow their business around the world." He added, "McIlroy's body of work suggests he's a low-level risk. He's about as safe a bet as Nike can make, and this puts him in rarefied air." Nike Golf President Cindy Davis said, "Rory is an extraordinary athlete who creates enormous excitement with his on-course performance while, at the same time, connecting with fans everywhere. He is the epitome of a Nike athlete" (USATODAY.com, 1/14). In London, Martyn Ziegler writes the Nike deal should "propel McIlroy into Europe's top five sports stars in terms of sponsorship income, behind a couple of Formula One drivers, plus" La Liga club MF Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona F Lionel Messi. Synergy CEO Tim Crow believes that it is McIlroy's "youth and refreshing approach to golf which make him such an attractive proposition" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 1/14).

SPARE NO EXPENSE: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Ryan Lavner notes the Nike-McIlroy partnership was officially announced today in Abu Dhabi during an "elaborate high-tech production that featured a laser show and video montage." When he "finally emerged, walking through a cloud of smoke, he was wearing a gray Nike pullover and white Nike hat" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/14). In a special to THE NATIONAL, Steve Elling reports there were "massive video screens and a rock-show stage" at the announcement, held prior to this week's HSBC Champions tournament. If McIlroy had "walked out for his formal unveiling with a guitar around his neck, it would have fit the splashy vibe" (THENATIONAL.ae, 1/14). Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott, who attended the press conference, said, “They don’t do things by halves in this part of the world. Money is not really an obstacle, and Nike is certainly joining that spirit at the moment.” Golf Channel’s Damon Hack said the scene “seems very anti what Rory McIlroy is all about." Hack: "He’s very understated. He doesn’t seem like a guy that likes a lot of the pomp and circumstance.” Abbott: “When the checkbook opens up, you have to change the strategy slightly, and I think Nike probably wants to do it like this” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 1/14).
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