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Volume 6 No. 214

Marketing and Sponsorship

Rory McIlroy caused “a stir on Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when he reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2” less than one week into his career with Nike Golf, according to Rex Hoggard of the GOLF CHANNEL. McIlroy kept his Nike “head cover on the Cameron." McIlroy said, “I felt the greens were pretty slow out there. The Nike putter that I used (on Thursday) is a little light and it was just a weight issue more than anything else. I feel like the one I used today was a little heavier and I was able to get the ball to the hole.” McIlroy declined to talk about the specifics of his Nike contract and “whether he was allowed to revert to his old putter under the terms of the agreement.” He said, “It’s the first week out. I wouldn’t look too much into (the new equipment)” (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/18). McIlroy’s agent Conor Ridge said, "It's going to take time. He's got to work the clubs in gradually" (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/19). GOLF CHANNEL’s Hoggard noted Nike Golf “did not disclose the fine print of its new deal with McIlroy and it seems likely there are addendums penciled into the deal that would allow him” to use his old Titleist putter. But if that is the case, then “why not ease into the new bag from the outset?” (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/18). In Portland, Allan Brettman noted neither McIlroy nor fellow Nike endorser Tiger Woods made the cut at Abu Dhabi, not how Nike Golf President Cindy Davis “envisioned the week ending.” But Davis said, "It's early in the year. I think -- especially early in the year -- you're watching a lot of these guys getting the rust off, getting ready for the year” (OREGON LIVE, 1/18).

PLAYING PARTNERS: McIlroy and Woods' new Nike commercial was a topic during's weekly roundtable discussion, and SI Senior Editor Mark Godich said, “I think it's great. Tiger comes off as likable. I also think that if this keeps up, Rory just might help Tiger rehabilitate his image.” SI’s Gary Van Sickle said, “The commercial is a winner, even after you learn that Rory and Tiger were never together for the filming.” Golf Magazine Senior Editor Mike Walker said, “The commercial explains why McIlroy went with Nike: they know how to create stars" (GOLF, 1/20).

A 'PR NIGHTMARE': In Dublin, Karl MacGinty wrote "the honeymoon appeared to be turning into a PR nightmare" for Nike following Monday's sponsorship announcement in Abu Dhabi. In fairness, "his old putter made precious little difference" as McIlroy completed his 36 holes at 6-over, four strokes off the cut. McIlroy: "It's the first week. I wouldn't read too much into the change. If anything, it's more the Indian than the arrow." Nike "dismissed any suggestion of dismay with his decision to discard their putter." A Nike spokesperson said, "We understand it takes time. It's a process and we're confident he'll change when he's ready" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 1/19).

Hair styling products brand Brylcreem "is reviewing its strategy of using sport stars in its advertising, throwing its commercial relationship with cricket star Kevin Pietersen in doubt," according to John Reynolds of MARKETING MAGAZINE. Pietersen has been the brand's 'Brylcreem Boy' since '09, "following a line of other sportsmen who have fronted the brand, including David Beckham." In the '60s, England cricketer Denis Compton "fronted the brand's advertising." Pietersen's deal is "thought to be worth" £2M ($3.2M) over two years. A spokesperson for the brand said, "We have used sport in the past, and it's not the case that we definitely won’t use sports people again. We're reviewing the plans, and since 'Mad Men', we are looking at that kind of brand ambassador, too. There is no urgency" (MARKETING MAGAZINE, 1/21).

The Royal Bank of Scotland "will continue" as Six Nations Championship title sponsors until at least '17, according to the PA. Tournament organizers revealed the Six Nations Council and RBS have agreed to a four-year extension of their existing partnership. RBS took over the tournament's sponsorship in '03. The competition, which kicks off this season on Feb. 2, is "currently televised in more than 160 countries." Defending champions Wales will kick-off the '13 tournament against Ireland in Cardiff, with England hosting Scotland and France facing Italy on the opening weekend (PA, 1/20).

With the just concluded Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship growing in status and popularity, HSBC says "it feels its backing of the event represents money well spent," according to Satya Narayan of GULF NEWS. In an interview with Gulf News, HSBC’s Global Head of Sponsorship and Events Giles Morgan said that his company's investment in sports sponsorship, while reflecting the bank’s business and brand, was "solely aimed at tapping into the passions of its customers worldwide." Below are some highlights of the interview (GULF NEWS, 1/21).

Q: HSBC is involved with quite a number of golf events. Any particular reason why you are playing so much focus on this sport?
Giles Morgan: HSBC uses its international sports sponsorship portfolio to provide a platform to build relationships with our most important customers in our most important markets by creating spectacular brand experiences. Golf is a sport which embodies many of the values we hold dear, so it makes absolute sense for us to invest in golf, especially in emerging markets where there are huge opportunities for growth.

Q: What are the other sporting events HSBC is involved with?
Morgan: In rugby we are proud sponsors of the British and Irish Lions, who tour Australia this summer, plus the HSBC Sevens World Series, with its major showpiece events in Dubai and Hong Kong. We are also a major sponsor of the Wimbledon Championships.

Q: What are the guiding principles which HSBC follows to decide whether to support a sport/event?
Morgan: As mentioned earlier, HSBC uses its sports sponsorships to provide a platform to build relationships with our most important customers through spectacular brand experiences. We are an investor, stakeholder and influencer in sports, which many of our customers are passionate about.

Q: With the banking industry facing troubled times around the world, has this in any way affected sponsorship of sport?
Morgan: The current financial climate means that these sponsorships are important to reflect our business and brand, but that it also becomes even more important that they are meeting the needs and goals of the business and that they are a sound investment. We see this as an investment to help grow our business around the world.

Ligue 1 club Lyon has agreed to a sponsorship deal with online poker operator PokerStars. The agreement will see video branding for the company appear on screens inside the club's 40,000 seat Stade Gerland (Lyon). ... German Handball Bundesliga club Tus N-Lübbecke has expanded its partnership with photo retailer Foto Dröge. Starting with this year Foto Dröge joined the ranks of team title sponsors. The local retailer has been part of Lübbecke's sponsorship pool since '00 (Tus N-Lübbecke). ... Building on a three-year partnership, adidas and the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon have joined forces for this year's marathon, to be held on Friday. Adidas will provide all participants, marathon officials and volunteers with commemorative adidas apparel that has been exclusively designed for the occasion. All registered runners will also receive an official adidas race shirt, created exclusively for Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon with adidas' ClimaCool technology (Adidas).