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).
The first picture of the British and Irish Lions rugby shirt for next summer’s three-Test tour to Australia has been revealed, according to Luke Benedict of the London DAILY MAIL. The adidas shirt "features a collar for the first time since the victorious South Africa tour of '97 -- incidentally the last time the Lions won a series." Although similar to the collarless shirt worn on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, the "more traditional neck line has been chosen to mark the 125-year anniversary of the Lions." Coach Warren Gatland "will name his back-room staff in Edinburgh next month." Wales defense coach Shaun Edwards is "expected to be part of that line-up," but the other positions are "up for grabs." Gatland said last month that he would "be taking a position between continuity and freshness." Gatland: ''One of the things we learned from 2009 and Lions as a concept is that for it to be successful you want some continuity" (DAILY MAIL, 10/29). The London TELEGRAPH reported that the Lions will play 10 games, with nine in Australia and one in Hong Kong. The tour begins with a meeting with the Hong Kong Barbarians June 1 and also features games against all five Australian Super 15 franchises (TELEGRAPH, 10/30).
The Board of Control for Cricket in India began the auction process for a new title sponsor for the Indian Premier League and expects the new candidate "to shell out at least 50% more" than the previous sponsor, according to Rathore & Bhushan of the ECONOMIC TIMES. Real estate company DLF partnered with the IPL for the league's first five years, and it paid Rs 40 crore ($7.4M) per year. Now the minimum bid price has been fixed at Rs 60 crore ($11.1M) per year, or Rs 300 crore ($55.6M) for a five-year deal. While "some experts believe the rate may be too high," BCCI has remained confident. IPL Chair Rajeev Shukla said, "We have increased the base price by Rs 20 crore ($3.7M), so definitely we are looking at a deal much more than the last time. A lot of people are interested in bidding for the rights." Telephone service providers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, Coca-Cola, and a public sector firm "are among companies expected to bid for the title sponsorship rights for the next five years, from '13-17." A source at Coca-Cola said, "We are interested. Since we sponsored five IPL teams last year, we will be interested in cranking up the association" (ECONOMIC TIMES, 10/30).
Glass manufacturer AGC Asahi Glass has agreed to become a new partner of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, according to Felipe Turlão of MEIO&MENSAGEM.com.br. The Japanese company agreed to a licensing agreement with FIFA to become the "official licensed glass roof of the 2014 FIFA World Cup player benches." The contract was brokered by Brazilian marketing agency Team Spirit. The deal interested the Japanese company "because it is establishing itself in Brazil and saw the World Cup as an opportunity" to make its brand known in Brazil, along with other markets around the world. Terms of the deal were not disclosed (MEIO&MENSAGEM.com.br, 10/30).
Bundesliga club Hannover 96 could soon lose its stadium naming-rights partner AWD, according to D. Puske-Peleitis of BILD. Financial services company AWD "will reportedly merge with its parent company Swiss Life and distribute its financial products under the 'Swiss Life Best Select' brand." Does that mean "the AWD-Arena will be renamed to Swiss Life-Arena?" The former Niedersachsen-Stadium "was renamed to AWD-Arena in '02 and has kept the name for now 10 years, which is a Bundesliga record." No other football club has been able to keep a naming-rights sponsor for such a long period of time. The club's deal with AWD expires in '13. Club President Martin Kind said, "We rely on continuity when it comes to our naming-rights partners and are open to constructive talks. However, there are a number of companies interested in the naming rights for the stadium" (BILD, 10/29).
Infant formula maker Fernbaby has become a "key sponsor" of the National Rugby League New Zealand Warriors, according to the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. The agreement is for three years and will see the company sponsoring the Vodafone Junior Warriors in the National Youth Competition in '13 before "becoming a full sponsor" of the club's NRL team in '14 and '15. Fernbaby will have a "visible presence" on the Vodafone Junior Warriors' playing kit in '13 with its logo on the back of the NYC team's playing shorts. In '14 and '15, the company logo will be on the front of the NRL team's shorts (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 10/30).
Brasileiro club Grêmio "is close to selling the naming-rights" to its new stadium to Chinese bank ICBC Bank, according to PLACAR. Representatives of the "largest bank in China" arrived in Brazil on Monday to conclude the negotiations. Grêmio President Eduardo Antonini confirmed that "the agreement is close to being signed." The executives from both parties "are only negotiating a couple small details." Indications are that the club "will receive approximately" R$34M ($16.7M) annually in the deal. Grêmio "is also working on a deal" with adidas, which could become the new kit supplier of the team (PLACAR, 10/29).
AC Milan has agreed to a new sponsorship deal with betting company Cogetech S.p.A. The Italian firm will now be the "premium sponsor" of the club for the '12-13 season (AC Milan). ... Ligue 1 club Rheims has agreed to a three-year partnership with telecom company Orange (L'UNION, 10/30). ... Super League Bradford Bulls has agreed to a one-year partnership with fast food supplier Rajas. The company will be the rugby club's first Asian sponsor (Bradford Bulls). ... Australian eye care provider OPSM and Cricket Australia have revealed a five-year partnership. As the official eye care provider for CA, the company will provide cricketers with optometry services, technology and the latest range of sunglasses and spectacles (CA). ... Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan's management "is seeking investors to come in and put their money into the team." Investment company CITIC Group "has no plans to put the team up for sale." CITIC and its subsidiary Guoan are "willing to put the naming rights of the team and the jersey advertisements up for sale, and it's not goign to come cheap." The club is looking for "a complete package that will cost around RMB 2B ($320M)" (WILDEASTFOOTBALL.net, 10/26). ... IMG has partnered with Diageo Australia to have the 2012 Australian Masters renamed the Talisker Masters. The event will be played at Kingston Heath Golf Club from Nov. 15-18. Talisker is a premium single malt scotch whiskey hand crafted by the sea on the Isle of Skye (Australian Masters).