x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Rory McIlroy ticks all the boxes for new sponsor Nike

The world No 1 has reportedly signed a US$200 million deal to become the sports brand's newest endorser and will be unveiled at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Rory McIlroy's former sponsor, Jumeirah Group, yesterday announced the end of their five-year association with the world No 1 golfer. He is expected to be unveiled as Nike's new endorser in Abu Dhabi next week. Yoshua Arias / EPA
Rory McIlroy's former sponsor, Jumeirah Group, yesterday announced the end of their five-year association with the world No 1 golfer. He is expected to be unveiled as Nike's new endorser in Abu Dhabi next week. Yoshua Arias / EPA

It might qualify as the worst-kept secret in golf.

Nike yesterday formally sent out notice that it will stage a major announcement in Abu Dhabi on Monday, featuring Cindy Davis, the president of the company's golf division, as well as an unspecified "special guest".

All signs point toward the man of mystery being the world No 1 Rory McIlroy, whose pending deal with the company has been the subject of speculation for the past two months.

The announcement will take place at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel.

McIlroy is entered in next week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where he finished second last year to Robert Rock. Already, he has been spotted wearing Nike clothing while on holiday with his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Australia.

Earlier yesterday, one of his former sponsors in Dubai, Jumeirah Group, issued a press release celebrating their five-year relationship with the Northern Irishman, which, the company noted, had just ended by mutual agreement.

It cleared the way for the impending Nike deal.

"We are extremely proud of Rory's rise to the No 1 spot with Jumeirah as his principal sponsor since he turned professional," Gerald Lawless, the Jumeirah chief executive, said.

Moreover, McIlroy has reportedly been involved in a legal dispute with another former sponsor, Oakley, about his contract status.

Nike routinely requires players signed to endorsement deals to wear Nike gear from head to toe, and McIlroy has previously had logos for several companies emblazoned on his hat and shirt.

So, given that an announcement had been in the works for weeks, with Abu Dhabi set as the launch point, all the pieces certainly fit.

McIlroy's first professional win came in the UAE, at the 2009 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and he won the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai in November, but his forthcoming payday seemingly represents the stuff of wildest dreams.

According to several unconfirmed reports, the new deal could make McIlroy, 23, the richest endorser in Nike history, since the contract has been estimated in the US$200 million (Dh734.6m) range. No terms have been released.

The Nike golf stable, whose fortunes had plummeted over the past couple of years, now includes the rejuvenated world No 3 Tiger Woods, as well as new 2013 recruits Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley, two other tournament winners on the PGA Tour.

With McIlroy, Nike has landed a player of growing global renown who was named the top player and led the money list on both the US PGA and European tours in 2012. McIlroy already has two major championships to his credit and won four times last year in the United States.

The London-based SportsPro magazine named McIlroy as the second-best athlete in the world, behind the Brazilian footballer Neymar, in terms of marketing potential, citing his crossover appeal, charisma, age and other factors, including his popularity in the United States.

 

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