Nike inks Rory McIlroy to expand brand’s dominance
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 08:01
It’s no secret that Nike has established itself as the most dominant sports apparel and equipment company, reeling in the biggest names in sports over the years from Michael Jordan and LeBron James to Tiger Woods.
Monday, Nike announced the addition of another superstar to their sparkling resume: the No. 1 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman will be covered from head to toe in Nike gear. He will also use Nike golf clubs and balls, which is different from the Titleist equipment he used for the first five years of his professional career.
Although Nike won’t release the specific terms of the contract, it has been reported that the multi-year contract is worth anywhere from $200 million to $250 million.
McIlroy, whose silky-smooth swing can produce bombs off the tee well over 300 yards, has dominated the Professional Golfers Association and European tours over the last two seasons. He has a combined seven wins on both tours, including two major championships (2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship). In 2012, he became only the second player to win the money title for both tours in the same season (Luke Donald in 2011).
The comparisons to Woods also escalated the past two seasons. Many believe McIlroy will be the face of golf for many years to come, just like Woods has been for the past couple of decades.
So now that Nike has contracts with the two most recognizable players in the game, things can only go up for the company. Nike proved once again they have the influence, apparel and equipment to sign the best players in any sport.
Despite Nike’s power in the sports business world, they have some problems to deal with involving McIlroy. Oakley, an apparel company that he had a contract with that ended last year, is suing McIlroy and Nike for breach of contract.
Also, Nike couldn’t snag last year’s top amateur golfer. Jordan Spieth, who turned professional last month after foregoing his final two years at the University of Texas, signed a clothing deal with Under Armour, which was announced Monday as well.
I don’t think Nike is too worried about that, however. The friendly “rivalry” that has grown between Woods and McIlroy will provide years of marketing opportunities and entertaining commercials (one has already been made with the two superstars hitting crazy shots on a driving range that end up in different cups, including glasses at a wedding).
On the course, how much will the club change impact McIlroy’s game, if any? He has become so used to using Titleist clubs and balls that he knows everything about them: from exact distances each club gets to how much spin he can put on the ball. Believe it or not, there are differences in types of clubs and balls that the weekend golfer might not see, but professionals can notice the first time they test a new product.
Another question that arises is whether or not McIlroy should have made the switch now. He’s on top of the golfing world; wouldn’t you want to stick with the equipment you have and not change anything since your game is near flawless? Or is it the right time to change equipment at a young age?
Then again, he is the best golfer in the world, so he should be able to make the adjustment pretty easily. However, if he struggles right away, he will have to deal with an enormous amount of scrutiny and pressure to perform well.
Either way, we will get a preview of McIlroy’s new look in this week’s European Tour event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Arab Emirates. For the first two rounds, McIlroy is scheduled to play with — you guessed it — Woods.
It will take me a little while to get used to a Nike-covered McIlroy strolling down the fairways, but this starts a new era for him: one that he hopes will propel him to even greater performances and achievements on the course.