GolfWRX is member published and that means you can join and share your opinions. Last week a member started a rumor that he heard Rory McIlroy is headed to Nike Golf for 250 million dollars over 10 years. Click here to see that post in the forums.
As the friendship between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods has flourished in recent weeks, so too have the rumors on GolfWRX that McIlroy will join Woods as a Nike Golf athlete next year.
Imagine Woods and McIlroy playing together in the final pairing of The Masters, both sporting Nike swooshes. While the scenario seemed impossible when Woods was the only golfer who enjoyed major media coverage, McIlroy’s dominating performances in the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship have brought him to a level of stardom that only Woods can best.
McIlroy currently has an apparel deal with Oakley and is a brand ambassador for Titleist/Footjoy and Jumeriah Hotels & Resorts — a Dubai-based international luxury hotel chain. But all of these deals were signed before McIlroy vaulted to stardom, which means that he and his management company may be looking to cash in on his increased value.
While it is only a rumor for now, a McIlroy-Nike Golf partnership makes sense for both parties. Here are five reasons why we might see McIlroy make a move to Nike Golf in the near future:
No. 1: Nike Golf needs another top-ranked golfer
Unfortunately for Woods and Nike Golf, it’s not 2008 anymore. Woods is no longer an unrivaled force in golf and his continued injury problems put the length of his legendary career in jeopardy. And while Woods is still easily the most popular golfer on the planet, his scandal has hurt his popularity. More importantly it has also seemed to shake the confidence that earned him 14 major championship titles.
Of Nike Golf’s 12 current PGA Tour athletes, only two players are ranked in the top 50 in the Official Golf World Rankings — Woods (No. 3) and Carl Pettersson (No. 32). You have to go all the way to the No. 110 in the OGWR to find the next top Nike Golf athlete on the PGA Tour, Paul Casey, who has made just two cuts this year. To be fair, Nike also sponsors European Tour members Charl Schwartzel (No. 24), Francesco Molinari (No. 25) and Simon Dyson (No. 48), but they are players are unlikely to impact apparel and equipment sales in the way McIlroy could.
No. 2: Global sports stardom
Name a Titleist-sponsored golfer who has risen to global sports stardom? I’ll wait.
Titleist is seen as an equipment brand for the elite player, a market where the company leads the industry. Few products receive as much buzz on GolfWRX as Scotty Cameron putters and Vokey wedges, and with ProV1 and ProV1X Titleist can also lay claim as the undisputed golf ball champion of the world. But it is not a brand that can lead to global sports stardom, a practice Nike has written the book on.
We love Titleist Brand Ambassador Adam Scott, but he’s no Phil Mickelson. He’s not even Ernie Els. McIlroy has the potential to be bigger than both Mickelson and Els. And while he’ll probably never be Lebron James or Dwayne Wade, with Nike and mentor Woods he can certainly be marketed in a similar way as Nike’s biggest star in tennis, Roger Federer.
No. 3: Commercials
Remember the Nike Golf Anthony Kim 20Xi golf ball commercials? They were beautiful while they lasted.
Kim has fallen off the face of the golf world since winning the 2010 Shell Houston Open. Because of injuries to his elbow, wrist and thumb, the one-time golf phenomenon earned less than $34,000 in 10 events in 2012, and he was forced to go under the knife in July after injuring his achilles tendon while sprinting.
A marketing campaign of Woods and Kim was obviously from the get go — at one time they were two of the most energetic, entertaining athletes in golf. But a Woods-McIlroy TV spot would be even better, and would likely rival the Tiger-Frank commercials that became instant classics. Combine Woods’ pedigree and sense of humor with McIlroy’s youth, honestly and charm and you have a hit, folks.
No. 4: Products that match
Nike Golf markets its tour players as athletes, not golfers. McIlroy’s physique and unbelievable clubhead speed gel perfectly with the company’s image. He’s also a natural fit to be dressed head to toe in Nike Golf’s athlete-minded golf apparel.
As far as golf equipment, McIlroy uses a bag full of clubs that are very similar to what Woods uses. He prefers blade irons, one of Nike Golf’s most highly acclaimed products. Nike Golf also convinced Woods, one of the best putters and wedge players of all time, to switch to its wedges and putter, as well its driver and fairway woods. For the right amount of money Nike could probably convince McIlroy to do the same.
No.5: McIlroy has changed courses before
McIlroy surprised many when he jumped ship from Chubby Chandler’s ISM sports management agency in favor of the Dublin-based Horizon Sport Management group in Nov. 2011. Chandler managed one of McIlroy’s childhood heros, Darren Clarke, as well as friend Lee Westwood, making the decision to leave even tougher on McIlroy. But McIlroy said he felt Chandler was leading him “down the wrong path.”
McIlroy always wanted to play the PGA Tour, but under the guidance of Chandler and Westwood the Northern Irishman did not join the Tour in 2011 and skipped The Players Championship that year in favor of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain. McIlroy later said that he regretted not joining the PGA Tour and skipping The Players.
There are hurdles to McIlroy migrating from his current sponsors, such as the length of his current contracts, but just like a round of golf can quickly change its course, so too can endorsement deals on the PGA Tour. Consider Rickie Fowler’s move from Titleist to Cobra-Puma last year. Fowler completely altered the direction of the former Acushnet-owned brand, making them a serious player among the major OEMs. McIlroy could take a brand like Nike Golf, a company that started out much like Cobra-Puma in its infancy, and grow it to the level of a company like TaylorMade-Adidas with the help of Woods.
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You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz or GolfWRX @GolfWRX.