January 14, 2013
Editorial: Rory Signing Good for Both Nike, Golf
Nike Golf has made an enormous investment in Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. Reports indicate that Nike has signed on to pay Rory some $200M to play and wear their golf line. Today they launched their campaign by pairing him with poster-child-turned-bad-boy, Tiger Woods.
Will it Pay Off?
A contract in the 9 figure range is not easily justified. How’d it turn out for the Yankees acquiring A-Rod from the Rangers? Or SiriusXM signing Howard Stern to a half billion dollar deal?
It’s best to think of this contract as reparations. Since launching an equipment line In 1998, Nike has had a notoriously tough time breaking through the big boys like Callway and TaylorMade. Nike Golf stumbled out of the gate one too many times (think square headed, terribly named, yellow accented underperforming driver). They have been trying to shake the stigma ever since. Turns out its not as easy as manufacturing top level equipment to right that wrong. They now have a revolutionary new cavity back driver on the way and their new signing has it in the bag.
Another unresolved issue hanging over Nike is the reclamation project that is Tiger Woods. While almost all of TW’s sponsors ditched him after the Cadillac/tree/hooker/divorce saga, Nike held on. True, it’s been a couple of years now and most hardcore golf fans have come to terms with it, but there’s still the casual fan that only thinks about golf once or twice a month. Nike has gone about business as usual, releasing the Tiger Woods apparel line and highlighting Tiger’s play on the course, but they haven’t done much to change public opinion about him. And maybe that’s a good thing. Tiger’s misdoings are irreconcilable to some so maybe it’s best to leave it be or…. use it to your advantage.
In sport, nothing beats a head-to-head rivalry. Think: Magic-Bird, Ali-Frazier, Brady-Manning, Gretzky-Lemieux.
In this, now Nike exclusive, rivalry there are pro-Tiger fans and pro-Rory fans, but there are also Tiger “haters” and Rory “haters”. If a Tiger “hater” roots against him, he’ll likely be pulling for McIlroy and vice-versa, either way Nike wins big.
Is there any chance the McIlroy deal pays off? It’s quite possible. If Rory and Tiger are both playing, there’s a darn good chance one will be near the top of the pack come Sunday, and if both are, watch out! Between the broadcast booth gushing over both and the endless “Just Do It” commercials, the PGA Tour could turn into a weekend long Nike-fest. Weight that against the potential risk for the multibillion dollar global company and it just makes sense.
Is It a Good for Golf?
While the Nike monopoly may be a nightmare for some of the other golf equipment companies, it should turn out to be good for the image of the game. Nike transcends sport and if anybody can get the game in front of non golfers, it’s Nike. And that’s something golf desperately needs, more golfers.
Despite a bumpy start for Nike Golf, it looks like they are finally righting the ship and could become the industry leader one would expect from one of the world’s biggest brands.