One of the worst kept secrets in sports marketing is a secret no more – Northern Ireland’s Rory Mcllroy has been unveiled as Nike’s newest superstar ambassador with a deal that seems likely to be the most lucrative British sporting deal ever.
Announced in Abu Dhabi with its very own set of creative assets – which ranged from the usual live streamed press conference and PR push, to a laser projection display, print work and a new TV ad in tandem with Nike’s other golfing megastar Tiger Woods.
If Mcllroy 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.
Messages of support from other fellow Nike stable superstars, such as Wayne Rooney and Roger Federer, were played on a big screen behind where McIlroy sat with Nike Golf president Cindy Davis.
Unsurprisingly, there was no sign at all of that other Nike sports star who has been dominating the news this week Lance Armstrong.
The deal is huge. If press reports are to be believed, then Mcllroy’s deal is substantially bigger than Woods’ most recent 10-year £124m Nike deal and bigger than Beckham’s lifetime £100m adidas contract.
Some industry experts are even speculating that it is a major step on Mcllory’s path towards becoming the UK’s first billion dollar sportsman.
In what could be a forerunner of intense competition between Nike’s two giant golf ambassadors, Mcllory’s first Nike TV spot sees the two jokingly compete at hitting balls in to various cups on a driving range using the tagline “Nike Golf: no cup is safe”.
While the golfer is also already appearing within the ongoing Nike’s multi-sport brand ambassador #TeamNike ‘We believe in the athlete’ campaign.
The 23-year-old’s contract, which is said to be worth more than £15m per year and could last a decade, comes after the world’s number one ranked golfer unwound the last of his previous sponsorships. The first week of January saw the player’s management team announce the end of his agreement with Jumeirah Group which started back in September 2007.
During the PR event, Mcllroy claimed to have been a fan of the Nike brand since he was a child.
‘I chose Nike for a number of reasons,’ said Mcllroy. ‘It’s a company and a brand that really resonates with me. It’s young. It’s athletic. It’s innovative. They are committed to being the best, as am I. Signing with Nike is another step towards living out my dream.’
In response Nike Gold President 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, and he is joining our team during the most exciting time in Nike Golf’s history. We are looking forward to partnering with him to take his remarkable career to the next level.’
Most Nike Golf player endorsement deals are calculated by starting with a base level income and then multiplying the player’s world ranking points by an agreed figure. For example, each ranking point could be worth $5,000 to a mid-level Tour player and worth $10,000 to a star name. The idea being that the better the golfer plays, the greater the reward (because of the bigger profile he or she is giving the brand).
Of course, this means issues such as form and injury are major factors.
However, it is thought that Mcllroy’s deal is very different from this standard approach and this mammoth contract shows Nike’s Golf’s major commitment to Mcllroy as it seeks to build on its Tiger Woods deal in order to increase its strength in the golf equipment market.
Before signing Woods, the Portland-based brand had just 1% of the golf equipment market. This has since grown to a 15% share. The young Northern Irishman will use the full range of Nike golf equipment from clubs and bags, to balls, accessories and clothing in the hope of gaining a substantially bigger piece of the golfing pie (and winning more majors of course).
The brand may even hope that Mcllroy’s current natural, open and transparent character (and approach to the press) may well not only boost the brand, but also help further rehabilitate Tiger Woods’ tarnished image.
Abu Dhabi Press Conference
Rory Mcllroy Site