Right player, right time, right brand, right sport - Rory ticks all right boxes
“The other interesting thing about it is that at a state level, the Chinese government are very taken with this western idea of golf being the game of business people. They like this idea that the golf course is where you do business deals, they see it as having a sort of elevated status that way. So it is a pretty serious business, not just at a private level but at government level as well. That can only mean more money and greater revenues for a company like Nike.”
No pressure then, Rory boy. Not that it’s likely to weigh on him too heavily. He’ll turn up to the Bab Al Bahr on Monday and make nice for a room stuffed with press. Some haircut in a sharp suit from Nike will gush about the future and they’ll play whatever new ad they’ve shot to wow the world. And sitting at the top table will be the hottest young sportsman in the world, a marketer’s jigsaw snapped perfectly into place. The right player at the right time for the right brand in the right sport.
Good for him. And who knows? Maybe they’ll even let him design his own clothes.
Tools of the trade What's in the bag
When Rory McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November, he was a Titleist man right through the bag.
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees, Mitsubishi Diamana prototype 70x shaft)
3-Wood: Titleist 913Fd (13.5 degrees, Fujikura ZCom Pro 95 shaft)
5-Wood: Titleist 913Fd (18 degrees, Fujikura ZCom Pro 95 shaft)
3-9 Irons: Titleist MB 712 (True Temper Project X 6.5 shafts) 46, 54 and 60-degree wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM4 Oil Can finish (True Temper Project X 6.5 shaft)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
He will obviously switch to Nike equipment now but it will be interesting to see what he decides when it comes to his putter. He has been practising in the Els Club in Dubai this week with both the Nike Method and his old Scotty Cameron blade in his bag.
Famously, Tiger Woods stayed true to his Scotty Cameron putter well into his Nike years, winning 13 of his 14 majors with it. Even when he changed to the Nike Method putter in 2008, it took him a few seasons to commit to it fully, switching over and back, depending on his level of confidence for a few seasons. Whether McIlroy will switch immediately or – more likely – take a while to try to get used to a new one will be one of the questions he’ll be answering on Monday. As for the rest of his bag, it will look like this:
Driver: Nike VR_S Covert 9.5-degree
Fairway Woods: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood/15-degree, 5-Wood or Nike VR Pro Cavity Back Long Irons
Irons: VR Pro II Blades (3-9) with Project X 7.0 shafts
Wedges: Nike VR Pro (46°, 54°, 60°) with Project X 7.0 shafts
Ball: Nike 20XI X
Since you ask, his clubs will be monogrammed – each of them inscribed with the legend ‘RORS’.
High rollers Massive sponsorship deals in sport
1 Michael Jordan (Nike, ongoing)
(Over $40 million a year)
The Mac Daddy of them all. His first contract with Nike was $2.5m over five years way back in 1984. These days, his Air Jordan brand is dominant in the US, taking in over $1 billion in revenue last year for the first time. Nike Jordan owns 10.8 per cent of the American sports shoe market and three out of every four basketball shoes sold there are Jordans.
2 Tiger Woods (Nike, 2000)
($100millon over five years)
The gold standard when it comes to endorsement contracts and the template for what McIlroy will be signing up to on Monday. At the time he signed it, Woods was not only the world’s best golfer, he was the most dominant athlete in any sport. No active sportsman has made more money from endorsements in his career than Woods.
3 David Beckham (Adidas, 2003)
($160 million lifetime)
Beckham has run Woods reasonably close, however. All the more so after scandal derailed Tiger’s earning potential in 2009. This deal with Adidas was seen as gargantuan at the time Beckham signed it and was very obviously a move to stop Nike poaching him.
4 LeBron James (Nike, 2003)
($90 million over seven years)
Astonishing not only for the size of it but also for the fact James had yet to lace up a professional shoe when he signed it. The Chosen One, as Sports Illustrated had named him, was going straight from high school to the NBA and would be joining the unfashionable Cleveland Cavaliers. Yet Nike didn’t see it as a risk. Turned out it wasn’t.
5 George Foreman (Salton Inc, 1999)
($137.5 million over five years)
Remember the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine? George Foreman does. In 1999, he sold his name to manufacturers Salton Inc for stock worth $23.5m and five annual payments of $22.75m. His second life as a grill vendor has made him comfortably more money than his boxing career did.