Nike has officially swooped in and signed Rory McIlroy to a deal that will have the world’s top player playing and wearing the company’s equipment and apparel for many years to come.
"I've always associated Nike with the best," McIlroy said at the announcement ceremony at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. "Growing up, whether it was golf, tennis, football, the best athletes were with Nike. I've watched Tiger Woods make history with Nike, and Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. Now I want to create my own history with Nike.”
Terms of the deal were not released, but several reports have said it is in the neighborhood of $200 million to $250 million over 10 years. If the latter is confirmed it would be the most lucrative endorsement ever negotiated in golf.
McIlroy, 23, will be playing with the world's first high-speed cavity back driver that conforms to USGA and R&A Rules — the Nike VR_S Covert.
"As soon as I hit (the driver), I knew it was in my bag straight away,” he said. “I've been practicing hard in the offseason. This equipment change has been seamless.”
This is McIlroy's first manufacturer change during his six-year career as a tour professional. McIlroy split with Titleist at the end of 2012 and earlier this year ended his relationship with Jumeirah, a Dubai-based luxury hotel company that was his first corporate sponsor.
David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at USC Marshall School of Business, said the deal proves Nike is still willing to invest in top-tier talent. In 1996, Nike signed Woods and has kept him with the company with two subsequent multi-million dollar deals.
“They think that Rory might be a global icon,” Carter told USA Today. “McIlroy's body of work suggests he's a low-level risk. He's about as safe a bet as Nike can make, and this puts him in rarefied air. ... This is a real important signing for them to grow their business around the world.”