It was a record setting blockbuster deal when Rory McIlroy signed on with the Swoosh. This will undoubtedly begin an ongoing tandem campaign with the other Nike show pony Mr. Eldrick Woods. Up to now the details on the trail to forging his relationship with Nike have been sketchy but you can read in the attached SI article by Alan Shipnuck how Rory and his agent carefully navigated the waters before landing him on this island oasis.
What may surprise you is how motivated and engaged Rory was in this process. He takes the presentation of his image very seriously and found that Nike represented the right fit of young and cool he was after. As Rory said in his typical self-deprecating fashion, “It always seemed like a food fit to me. Golf needs a younger and more athletic image and Nike has always had that. I’m young enough. I’m not sure I’m athletic enough. But I’ll try”.
His agent Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Management was determined to eliminate the clutter of logos that made Rory appear on TV broadcasts as “golf’s version of a NASCAR ride”. Through a protracted series of agreements to meet Rory’s goal of a cleaner, more simple image presentation, Ridge has realigned Rory’s endorsements and delimited the ad real estate on Rory clothing.
The most interesting aspect of this article is Shipnuck’s description of the evolution of Rory’s relationship with the Nike equipment side. Rory said he was “relieved to discover that among the club tweakers there were no spiky-haired hipsters or mad scientists…..I was blown away by the craftsmanship and attention to detail”.
In the end Nike’s craftsmen found Rory a quick study who, as the ultimate feel player, is apt to embrace changes that intrigue him and take the attitude of “let’s try it and see what happens”. This is a far stretch from the conservative and controlling approach of the second stud in the barn.
The jury is out on how a drastic equipment change may affect Rory’s career trajectory but he does not seem all that concerned about it. He says, “I don’t over think things. I’m not going to get overwhelmed by changing my equipment.” His father Gerry who knows him better than anyone has said , “Rory could win a major playing with a hockey stick and an orange.” Maybe Rickey Fowler should take note of that.
Tiger has gracefully accepted the fact that an ad relationship with Rory allows Nike to bring him back from his wilderness journey that started after that fateful incident at Isleworth in 2009. The first advertisement of the series (click here to view the first ad) has just the right amount of edginess and personality interest to set the table for the many more sequels that are cooking in The Oven.