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SBD/January 15, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship
Nike Set Sights On Rory McIlroy Long Before Announcing Multiyear Sponsorship Deal
Published January 15, 2013
BRAND RORY: ESPN’s Bob Ley said to McIlroy on "OTL" yesterday, “You’re not just a golfer, certainly, with your accomplishments. You ascend from golfer to brand. How would you describe the Rory McIlroy brand?” McIlroy said his brand is “very authentic, what you see is what you get, down to earth, young, energetic.” McIlroy added, “I can relate to a lot of people, especially the younger generation” ("OTL," ESPN, 1/14). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Lorne Rubenstein wrote Nike has signed the “most popular golfer in the world to a gigantic contract, and obviously has big hopes for what McIlroy can do for its golf division.” The focus on McIlroy “will be intense.” He has been under the spotlight “for some time now, but he has ensured the glare will only get more intense from the first swing he makes this week in Abu Dhabi with Nike clubs” (GOLFCANADA.ca, 1/14).
DYNAMIC DUO: CNBC’s Brian Shactman said McIlroy and Woods are now “the faces of Nike Golf,” though McIlroy “represents a new generation.” Shactman: “It’s not like Tiger Woods is old … but Nike is hedging its bets if he doesn’t make it all the way back to No. 1, so they signed Rory” (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 1/14). In London, Kevin Garside wrote the McIlroy-Woods dynamic is "golf's dream ticket" in '13, a "nascent rivalry that is essentially waiting for Woods to catch up with the Ulsterman" (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 1/14). GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Rex Hoggard wrote it is “clear Nike, as it does in other sports, plans to capitalize on having the game’s alpha and omega under a single roof.” Hoggard: “Seamlessly weaving two divergent personalities, and not roughing up any egos in the process, will be Nike’s biggest challenge, but there is an army of marketing types to climb that mountain” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/14). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS’ Shane Bacon wrote the new 60-second ad Nike released yesterday featuring McIlroy and Woods trying to one-up each other is “exactly what you'd expect from Nike, who continually puts out the best commercials in the game and now has a brand new star to play with” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/14).
NO RECRUITING PITCH: ESPN.com’s Bob Harig noted Woods and McIlroy “got to be friendly over the past year.” But McIlroy said that Woods “never tried to recruit him to the company, nor did McIlroy reach out for any advice.” McIlroy said, "I didn't speak about it to Tiger. I didn't say anything, and I don't think he wanted to influence me, either. We didn't talk about it at all -- not until after it was all done” (ESPN.com, 1/14). But Golf Channel’s Charlie Rymer said, “I just can’t imagine that Nike Golf would go out and sign Rory McIlroy without having a conversation with Tiger Woods” ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 1/14).
THE YEAR OF THE SWOOSH: YAHOO SPORTS' Bacon in a separate piece wrote if ’11 was “the year of TaylorMade, and last season was a pretty darn good one for Ping, it seemed that '13 would be that one for Nike.” Woods is “obviously the biggest name on any staff, but the additions of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley helped.” Nike then “quietly added Seung Yul Noh, one of the sneaky best pick-ups from any company in the offseason, and on Monday announced the ‘breaking’ news” that McIlroy would be “covered head to toe, putter to driver in Nike.” This announcement “happened to come the day after Russell Henley won the Sony Open as a rookie and a Nike ambassador, and if you're talking about having a pretty solid start to the 2013 season, I'd say this is about as good as it gets” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/14).