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SBD Global/October 31, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

McIlroy Ends Deal With Acushnet Brands, Wins Duel In China Vs. Woods

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Tiger Woods, left, and Rory McIlroy have a light moment after their 18-hole duel Monday in China's Henan province.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy "is ending his relationship" with golf brands Titleist and FootJoy after the '12 season, according to Michael Buteau of BLOOMBERG. Neither McIlroy nor parent company Acushnet Co. "disclosed a reason for the split in a press release." The Irish Times reported on Oct. 20 that McIlroy could sign a 10-year agreement with Nike worth as much as $250M, however, it did not cite a source for its information. McIlroy's agent Conor Ridge "declined to comment on the golfer's equipment sponsorship in an email" (BLOOMBERG, 10/30). The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote McIlroy's announcement allows him "to pursue a lucrative endorsement contract, with strong indications that he will sign with Nike in a deal that one industry observer estimated as $20M a year." A deal with the Irishman would "give Nike golf's two biggest stars," along with Tiger Woods. This is the second time in the last 10 years that Acushnet, "which has a history of fiscal prudence, has not stood in the way of a No. 1 player going after big money." Woods, who had an equipment deal with Titleist when he turned pro, left for the Nike golf ball in '00 and the golf clubs in '02 (AP, 10/30). The IRISH TIMES reported that Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein said in a statement: "He has been a great ambassador for the Titleist and FootJoy brands, and in turn, we are proud of how our equipment has contributed to his success." Nike "has declined to comment" on speculation of the deal, and McIlroy "was similarly reluctant to speak" prior to his second place finish in the BMW Masters in Shanghai over the weekend. McIlroy said, "I'll have my management company and everyone else on that side deal with endorsements and everything like that" (IRISH TIMES, 10/30). 

CHINA DUEL: In Beijing, Tym Glaser wrote McIlroy and Woods made their Duel at Jinsha Lake in Zhengzhou, China "look more like a stress-free stroll" on Monday, but "the thousands of fans who braved the chilly conditions couldn't have cared less." An audience "conservatively estimated at more than 2,000 happily followed" the two golfers for the 18 holes "of their stroke-play encounter." At the end of the day, McIlroy's blemish-free 5-under 67 was "enough to hold off Woods by a stroke" (CHINA DAILY, 10/30). In Hong Kong, Noel Prentice wrote the "multimillion-dollar bout turned into a surreal, chaotic pantomime." Woods and McIlroy were "used as promotional tools, and expensive ones at that," while there "was nothing at stake, apart from bragging rights." Also in attendance "was an ostentatious display of cars, -- from Maseratis, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys to Aston Martins -- to helicopters and advertisements for luxury homes." A group of Henan provincial officials "basked in their moment in the sun -- or smog -- and even a Russian model used the 12th tee to parade her evening gown and designer jewelery" (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 10/30).
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