Today, in Abu Dhabi, the worst kept secret in golf became official at an over-the-top news conference which announced Rory McIlroy and Nike Golf have agreed to a multi-year contract. Rory will play Nike clubs, balls and will wear Nike apparel. He is full-up Nike. It only seems fitting that the world #1 would be flying the Nike flag. First it was Tiger Woods, who had the longest consecutive streak at #1 in the world rankings in history. Now it appears it is Rory McIlroy’s turn. This is not a “passing of the torch” but rather a joining of forces that will ensure Nike has a stranglehold on the golf world for years to come.
Video Courtesy of The Telegraph
The size of the deal has been a subject of speculation for a while, before it became official. Nike policy will prohibit the company from releasing the years or dollars associated with the contract. However, BBC reports that the deal is worth $100-$125M over five years while Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel reports the deal is worth a staggering 10 years and $200M.
All the pomp and circumstance does not come without issue. As reported by Lester Munson, an ESPN legal analyst, Oakley is suing both the world #1 and Nike for breach of contract. The lawsuit revolves around language in the original Oakley deal. The company had the “right of first refusal’ as it pertained to eyewear or apparel deals. In short it means that although McIlroy’s contract with Oakley expired at the end of 2012 the company had the right to match any offer presented to McIlroy. Oakley claims they were not given that right.
McIlroy and his representatives claim they fulfilled their obligation to Oakley and that the lawsuit is baseless. The apparent key is a group of emails between Pat McIlvain of Oakley and Conor Ridge (McIlroy’s agent) in which it appears that Oakley was aware they would be out of the Rory McIlroy business in 2013. In fact, McIlroy’s management group had previously released a statement to ESPN stating, “McIlroy has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakley, and the claims in the lawsuit are entirely baseless.” That’s enough with the legalities which will all be resolved. McIlroy is part of the Nike Golf stable for the next 5-10 years at a minimum.
With the previous partnerships with Titleist and Footjoy being dissolved as well it begs the question; what will be in Rory’s bad when he makes his season debut alongside stable mate Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi? According to the Golf Channel, Rory will be teeing it up with the following clubs in his bag:
Driver: Nike VR_S Covert Tour 9.5-degree, set neutral
Fairway wood: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood/15-degree and 5-wood/19 degree
Irons: Nike VR Pro Blades (3-PW)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro 54-degree and 60-degree
Putter: Nike Method 006 Prototype
Ball: Nike 20XI X
Clothing: Of course he will be sporting the Nike Golf Tour Performance Collection.
Shoes: Nike Lunar Control
The Nike stable is quite impressive. You have the charter and flagship member in Tiger Woods. There are also quality players in Paul Casey, Charl Schwartzel and Anthony Kim that fly the Nike flag. Nick Watney was signed by Nike this year as well but none of the previously mentioned players, short of Tiger Woods, would resonate outside of golf circles like Rory McIlroy. Nike just had to have him and with the removal of the Lance Armstrong endorsement deal they had the funds available (okay they had the money anyway).
Nike made a point to have their first commercial, since signing McIlroy, include Tiger Woods. This served a few purposes. It brought Rory to the front from a Nike marketing perspective. It also showed Tiger in a light not covered in previous controversy. Finally, it showed a level of acceptance from Tiger that Rory belonged in the fold (not that Rory really needed his approval). It is a very well done piece reminiscent of the of McDonalds Jordan/Bird commercials years ago.
Video Courtesy of NikeGolf
Speculation is sure to surround McIlroy during the coming months to see how he responds to the changes in equipment from the Titleist clubs that were so effective to the new Nike equipment. For example he is leaving behind the Scotty Cameron putter that was tied to victories worldwide. Will the new Method putter be as effective? You can expect a magnifying glass on McIlroy’s play in the coming months. You can also expect a bunch of opinion and conjecture at every turn. You can also expect Rory McIlroy to win! The kid if just too good to fail.