x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Joy for Jumeirah with McIlroy triumph

Rory McIlroy's endorsement income, which currently stands at $10 million a year, is expected to skyrocket following the golfer's victory at the US Open championship.

Jumeirah Group gained exposure through Rory McIlroy's US OPen victory. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Jumeirah Group gained exposure through Rory McIlroy's US OPen victory. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The Dubai hotel chain Jumeirah Group enjoyed an instant boost among golf fans on Sunday as Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy won the US Open Championship with the company's name emblazoned on his cap and shirt.

But the hotelier, which sponsors McIlroy along with the sunglasses company Oakley and the golf brand Titleist, says it has yet to determine just how much the exposure was worth.

Thatcher Brown, the vice president of brand strategy at Jumeirah, says it is "too early" to assess the value of the media attention on the US Open.

"From looking at the media coverage - both print, television, radio and online - it has been prolific," Mr Brown said. "We will certainly go through a rigorous process of tracking the exposure." He said, however, that traffic to the hotel chain's website increased immediately after McIlroy's win.

"We've looked at a substantial increase in activity on Jumeirah.com," Mr Brown said. "It's a healthy spike in activity."

Jumeirah signed McIlroy as a "brand ambassador" in 2007 when he turned professional. It extended the deal for a further three years at the beginning of last year. Jumeirah declined to comment on the terms or value of its endorsement.

Mr Brown said it would be in Jumeirah's "best interests" to take a "favourable position in terms of renewal" in 2013. "We don't make any assumptions on what's up for grabs at the time of renewal," he said.

McIlroy reportedly earns US$10 million (Dh36.7m) a year from his three primary sponsors but will be looking for a big increase in earnings after his first big win.

Andrew Chandler, McIlroy's agent, is said to have already received "dozens" of sponsorship offers - and is expected to receive more after the golfer's triumph, pushing up his potential endorsement income.

"McIlroy's profile is going to go through the roof," said Hermann Behrens, the chief executive of The Brand Union Middle East.

"Jumeirah are now going to be competing with brands across the globe for the sponsorship of Rory. There's no doubt that the price is going to go up," he said.

McIlroy's hero Tiger Woods remains the world's top-earning sports star, with income of $75m last year, according to the US magazine Forbes.

While McIlroy's earnings are nowhere near that level, the golfer will be able to negotiate higher fees after winning his first major title.

Mr Behrens said that because Jumeirah operates in relatively few markets it would not achieve as strong a return on its investment as a worldwide brand might. The chain has properties in Dubai, London, New York, Shanghai and the Maldives. "At the moment they're just a name - very few people have actually experienced the Jumeirah brand," Mr Behrens said. "Are they going to see a return on investment in the short term? I don't think so, because the brand is under-distributed."

But the chain is expanding, with hotels planned in Frankfurt, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Azerbaijan.

Mr Behrens said Jumeirah faced a "massive decision" in choosing to continue the sponsorship. "As they expand their distribution, I think they will see a return on investment," he said.

Bashar Abdulkarim, the managing director of the sports marketing and sponsorship consultancy at Relay Mena, said McIlroy would "definitely" be able to ask for more money when his sponsorship contracts are renewed. "The guy is the new upcoming talent," he said, adding that many athletes' endorsement packages included bonus schemes allowing for additional payments upon winning high-profile tournaments.

He also said Jumeirah's brand would have been boosted by the intense media interest in McIlroy's win. "It's a perfect match, and they're getting their high share of brand exposure," he said. "This is beyond the five-star. And they are associating themselves with a class A sport."

bflanagan@thenational.ae