x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Abu Dhabi's finest hunts a golfer who kept a tiger at bay

Emirates Palace has signed a sponsorship agreement with Robert Rock, the winner of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, who beat rival Tiger Woods at last month's tournament.

Emirates Palace signed a sponsorship agreement with Robert Rock after he won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Hoagland/The National
Emirates Palace signed a sponsorship agreement with Robert Rock after he won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Hoagland/The National

Emirates Palace has signed a sponsorship agreement with Robert Rock, the winner of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, who beat rival Tiger Woods at last month's tournament to clinch the biggest win of his career.

The landmark Abu Dhabi hotel's two-year deal with the champion golfer - whose nickname is Rocky - will involve a shirt sponsorship and associations with some events.

Anita Cremer, the director of sales and marketing at Emirates Palace, said the sponsorship agreement was designed to promote the hotel to a younger, trendier audience.

She said the association with the golfer marked the first international sponsorship signed by the hotel, which cost about US$3 billion (Dh11bn) to build. "We want to reach the younger … hipper 40-year-old. At that age people may not think of Emirates Palace," said Ms Cremer.

"Emirates Palace should be a little trendier … With associations with Robert, I think that may prompt some new ideas in people's minds," she added. "He's a young guy, representing a very hip and good-looking generation."

The sponsorship deal was hastily arranged following Rock's victory over his sporting hero Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi.

The British golfer also triumphed over Rory McIlroy - who himself has a sponsorship deal with Jumeirah Group, a Dubai-based rival of Kempinski, which manages the Emirates Palace.

The hotel initiated the sponsorship discussions with Rock, and the contract was agreed to this week.

The golfing star is also playing at this week's Dubai Desert Classic competition.

Ms Cremer declined to specify the value of the deal. "We want to have the contract for two years, and then see how we progress together," she said.

Rock said that he was also looking at the possibility of setting up a golf academy in the UAE, similar to an initiative he has launched in the UK. "I've started golf academies at home, and I'd like to be able to develop that in this region," he said. "I'd love to do it in Abu Dhabi … We're trying to work out what would be the best way to take it forward."

The golfer said staying at the luxurious Emirates Palace was a somewhat different experience to the hotels he used earlier in his career.

While on tour in the late 1990s, the golfer even had to share a room while staying in the northern English town of Blackpool, a seaside resort known for its faded grandeur. That was not quite a five-star experience. "I can remember once staying in an apartment in Blackpool … which I shared with three friends," he said. "That was slightly different — there were bunkbeds involved."

bflanagan@thenational.ae