Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland smiles during a
presentation unveiling him as Nike's new ambassador in Abu
Dhabi. REUTERS/Ben Job
World number one golfer Rory McIlroy has praised the
clubs of his new sponsor Nike, saying he was hitting the ball
further than ever after agreeing a multi-year sponsorship deal
with the US sportswear firm.
Although commercial terms were not disclosed, media reports
say the agreement with the Northern Irishman unveiled on
Monday is worth as much as $US250 million over 10 years, one
of the most lucrative in global sports as Nike moves on after
dropping disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong last year.
McIlroy, 23, was previously sponsored by golf brand Titleist
and other golfers have struggled to replicate their earlier
success after switching to a new equipment provider. However,
McIlroy was full of confidence ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC
Golf Championship which starts on Thursday.
"The new driver that I will play with this week is awesome,"
he told a news conference to announce his sponsorship. "As
soon as I hit it I knew it was going in the bag straight
away. I'm hitting it further - I thought I was hitting it far
before, but this is really taking it to a new level."
The US PGA champion visited Nike's research and development
facility in Fort Worth, Texas, in late 2012 to try out his
new clubs and balls and has continued to practise over
Christmas and New Year. He said the sponsorship deal was
about improving his game rather than personal riches.
"I play for titles, I don't play for money...If at the end of
2013 I haven't won a major I will be disappointed," said
McIlroy, adding the new Nike balls were more more stable in
the wind and he was now driving the ball at about 290km an
The twice major winner topped the tournament earnings lists
in both the United States and Europe last year.
Nike is also a long-time sponsor of world number two Tiger
Woods, standing by the US golfer in 2009 despite the bad
publicity he suffered when a series of extra-marital affairs
came to light.
A new Nike TV commercial featuring the two golfers was shown
for the first time at a news conference in Abu Dhabi where
Nike officially confirmed it had recruited McIlroy - one of
the worst-kept secrets in sport.
"There is still some equity (value) in the Woods' brand.
McIlroy, rather than being a replacement, is the heir
apparent," said Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business
strategy at England's Coventry University.
"In golf and cycling they built much of their business on the
back of two individuals. They needed to move quickly and
decisively to make a big signing and with McIlroy that is
what they have done."
Golf provides 3-4 percent of Nike's total revenue, Cindy
Davis, Nike Golf president, told Reuters.
Under the deal, McIlroy will use the company's clubs and
balls and wear its clothing with the familiar swoosh logo.
McIlroy is part of a high-profile sporting couple with former
world women's tennis number one Caroline Wozniacki.
The agreement with Nike has not been accepted by all of
McIlroy's previous sponsors.
Sunglasses maker Oakley has begun legal action to try to
retain its sponsorship deal with McIlroy, saying it had the
right to match any improved agreement with another company.