£150m Nike deal: can McIlroy be bigger even than Tiger?

Jan 15, 2013

Nike sponsorship catapults Rory McIlroy, still 23, into world league of sports personalities

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NORTHERN IRELAND golfer Rory McIlroy has joined the world's "sporting elite" after signing a mammoth sponsorship deal with sportswear manufacturer Nike.

The exact details of the contract have not been made public but according to The Guardian "it has been widely reported to be a 10-year contract worth as much as £150m if McIlroy, previously with Titleist, goes on winning majors". Others suggest that the agreement will only last five years. Either way it catapults McIlroy into the world league of sports personalities.

The deal was unveiled at an event in Abu Dhabi where it felt as if the 23-year-old was being inducted into the untouchable Nike "family", suggested James Corrigan in the Daily Telegraph. "With the money on offer, not to mention his new gang members, he had every right to feel a made man," he noted.

The event was "more Hollywood than Middle East" said The Times. "In fact, it would be fair to say that the whole caboodle was a little cheesy."

It even featured messages from some of Nike's other stars, including Roger Federer, Wayne Rooney and golfing rival Tiger Woods, which were shown on giant screens.

"Hey, Rory. Welcome to the family," said Woods, described by the Times as the "man McIlroy will ultimately replace. "It did not seem to be through gritted teeth," said the paper. "Even though it looks as if McIlroy is about to become top dog as far as Nike are concerned."

However, McIlroy and Woods could form a formidable marketing partnership, and already an advert (below) featuring them indulging in some banter on the driving range is doing the rounds. It had attracted more than 1 million hits on YouTube within hours of being released.

And they will work together, at least for the next few years. "McIlroy... has not been signed as a like-for-like replacement," claims the BBC. "Instead, expect to see the two marketed together - Woods chasing the four more major wins he needs to match Jack Nicklaus's record, McIlroy battling him as the new generation.

"Woods and McIlroy... look as if they get on well; two great players with mutual respect," says the Times.

And it could pay dividends for golf fans, says the Telegraph. "If McIlroy leaving Titleist to join Nike was golf's worst-kept secret then its second worst-kept secret must be that McIlroy and Woods will partner each other in the first two rounds [of the Abu Dhabi Championship]. What a way to start the year. The world No 1 and two will have the same Swoosh, roughly the same contract and exactly the same ambition - to show the other who is the real No 1."

And perhaps McIlroy could pick up some more advice from his new partner and sponsors. "If McIlroy can avoid the scandals that have affected other Nike athletes such as Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong and keep his form, that gargantuan billion-dollar figure is clearly within range," said the Daily Mail.

As for Nike, they are still recovering from the damage inflicted to the brand by scandals involving Woods, Armstrong and NFL player Michael Vick, jailed over dog-fighting. The company's golf division also saw revenues drop in 2010 and 2011. "McIlroy, like no other sportsman, can help turn both issues around," said the BBC.

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