Lights, cameras, action as McIlroy signs up to the ranks of 'the swoosh'
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque took 11 years to build and sits today in Abu Dhabi as the eighth biggest mosque in the world. It has 82 domes, can hold up to 42,000 worshippers and boasts not only the world’s third biggest chandelier but also the planet’s largest known carpet – a 35-tonne, 60,000-square-feet woollen masterpiece that contains within it close to 2.3 billion knots. It is genuinely, in the most literal sense of the word, awesome.
Well, Nike want you to know that they think Rory McIlroy is pretty awesome too. So awesome, in fact, that for half an hour here yesterday, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque existed merely as a backdrop.
The 10-year, $200 million (€150 million) endorsement deal between McIlroy and Nike was announced with the sort of breathless, corporate enthusiasm that apparently makes the world go round and although the man himself had the good grace to seem a little bashful about it all, he knows on which side his bread is now buttered.
It’s all very easy to sit here and take the mickey out of a global behemoth like Nike. So here goes. This was swooshes at sundown, a garish, over-the-top demonstration of Nike’s all-conquering might and munificence. Where no expense was spared to make it look like no expense had been spared. We counted 20 television cameras, 36 spotlights, two giant screens and a stage that would make Bono wonder if maybe it wasn’t all a bit roomy for a 24-minute gig.
The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel was on lockdown from 90 minutes before it began, with fastidious security men standing sentry over every loose patch of grass outside where the stage sat. The Irish Times took a wander at one point just to see if we could find the side of said stage, whereupon we were halted by one such badge.
“Sorry sir, where are you going?”
“Just having a look around.”
“No sir, no looking around.”
“No looking around?”
“No sir. Not until later.”
The thought briefly occurred that maybe this was bigger than we’d imagined. That maybe Nike had really pushed the boat out and organised Barack Obama himself to introduce McIlroy to the stage. But no, this was just how things were to be done. No ordinary sponsorship announcement, this.
Though everybody could see McIlroy standing not 100 yards away from the stage, the Nike people weren’t going to get the show on the road until the sun dipped behind the Grand Mosque. When it did, Nike Golf president Cindy Davis walked out between the two screens and launched into her routine.
Serious high-end corporate executives are believers. You might very well think that they must inwardly cringe at some of the guff they’re forced to utter but that’s not how it is at all.