SBD/May 6, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Rory McIlroy's Branding Comes Through Relationships; Says No To Alcohol Deals

McIlroy said he would never agree to a deal with an alcohol company
Rory McIlroy’s successes “off the course this year have dwarfed his accomplishments on it,” according to the N.Y. TIMES’ Karen Crouse, who wrote a sports-section cover story under the header, “The Branding Of Rory McIlroy.” In the 18 months since McIlroy signed with Horizon Sports Management, he has “become the third-highest earner among active golfers, behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.” The six-person Horizon team working for McIlroy "has treated connections as the No. 1 currency.” McIlroy last month said, “You build relationships from the start of your career, and you want to try to keep certain relationships until the end. So it’s nice to have sponsors and have partners and whatever, but the nice thing is having a relationship with these people just outside of golf.” McIlroy last month signed with Omega. Before the announcement, he phoned Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias, whose watch company "had a sponsorship deal" with McIlroy through the end of the year. McIlroy said that he “expressed his gratitude for the association; as a good-will gesture, he agreed to make a scheduled appearance this summer for Audemars Piguet and had it written into his contract with Omega so there was no confusion.” Horizon has “10 clients, all golfers,” and in ’11, “reported a profit of less than $500,000.” McIlroy’s agent, Conor Ridge, said that he “had no plans to expand.” Ridge said, “If we took on anyone new, it would be difficult, given the size of our company, to maintain the same level of personalized attention to the players we have.” McIlroy also cited “alcoholic beverages as a partnership he would never agree to.” Although he has space on his bag for a sponsorship, McIlroy said that he had "no room in his schedule to add more endorsement-related activities without cutting into his practice schedule” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/5).
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