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SBD Global/January 15, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike Golf Officially Announces Signing Of McIlroy As Newest Pitchman

A projection of Rory McIlroy on water as he is unveiled as new brand ambassador for Nike in Abu Dhabi.
Rory McIlroy has signed a multi-year agreement with Nike Golf, the company announced at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE. McIlroy now represents Nike in clubs, ball, footwear, glove, apparel, headwear and accessories. He is making his debut as a Nike athlete this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. In switching to exclusively play in and wear Nike Golf products, McIlroy is making his first manufacturer change during his six-year career as a tour professional (Nike). The BBC's Stephen Watson noted the deal makes McIlroy "one of the highest paid sports stars in the world." The exact detail of the sponsorship "may never be revealed," but it has been reported to be worth between $100M and $125M over five years, earning McIlroy around $50,000 a day. McIlroy, "I chose Nike for a number of reasons. They are committed to being the best, as am I. Signing with Nike is another step towards living out my dream" (BBC, 1/14). In Abu Dhabi, Steve Elling reported McIlroy was introduced as Nike's newest golf pitchman "with massive video screens and a rock-show stage set along the sandy shores and water Between Two Bridges." McIlroy: "I've always associated Nike with the best." If he had walked out for his formal unveiling with a guitar around his neck, "it would have fit the splashy vibe" (THE NATIONAL, 1/14).

SKY'S THE LIMIT: In Dublin, Mark Garrod reported McIlroy "will use Nike's full range of clubs, balls, clothing and accessories," with the clubs used competitively for the first time in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship later this week against a field including the "other leading golf name in Nike colours," Tiger Woods. Nike Golf President Cindy Davis said of McIlroy, "He is the epitome of a Nike athlete and he is joining our team during the most exciting time in Nike Golf's history." Irish golfer Padraig Harrington said, "If you are going to talk about someone challenging the record of Jack Nicklaus there's your man. At his age he's probably got 100 more majors where he could be competitive. It would give him a great chance." Told of Harrington's comment and aware of the expectation, McIlroy sighed: "Oh, Paddy, Paddy, Paddy" (INDEPENDENT, 1/14). In London, Kevin Garside wrote at just 23 and already the world No. 1 "by a huge margin, McIlroy is Nike's investment in the future, leading a stable that from the start of this year also embraced twentysomething Americans Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley, plus Korean supernova Noh Seung-yul, talented lads all but very much the junior partners in this arrangement." 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." A three-time winner on the PGA Tour last year, Woods is "once more a fixture on leaderboards" (INDEPENDENT, 1/14).

THE COMPANY'S NEXT GLOBAL ICON: USA TODAY reported 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" (USA TODAY, 1/14). In London, Martyn Ziegler wrote 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, 1/14).

SPARE NO EXPENSE: 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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