Nike announced a new 10-year apparel endorsement contract with Rory McIlroy, the No. 2-ranked pro golfer in the world, extending a relationship that began in 2013.
During the span of that first contract, McIlroy won 12 tournaments, including two major championships, two Race to Dubai titles and most recently the FedEx Cup. He will be looking to complete a career grand slam when he takes to the links in Augusta, GA this week for the Masters tournament.
“I’ve loved this company since I was a kid,” McIlroy said in a prepared statement. “I’m really happy to continue this journey with Nike.”
Depending on which source you're paying attention to, this is being described either as a new deal or an extension of an existing deal. But, when McIlory (or "Wee Mac," if you prefer) first signed with Nike, the original deal included not only endorsement of apparel, but also use of Nike-branded gold equipment. Since then, Nike has dropped out of the golf equipment game, which left McIlory and several other golfers scrambling to find another brand of clubs, balls and bags to play with.
While the shift could have turned McIlroy off to Nike completely, you can bet the company wanted to keep McIlroy in its corner in some fashion, and there is probably no better time in the golf apparel market to close and announce this kind of deal than in the week before the Masters. So, anyway, this sounds more like a whole new deal, rather than an extension of an existing deal, at least to us.
Since Nike pulled out of the golf equipment market, it certainly has been making an effort to double down on the golf apparel market. In January, the brand announced a new relationship with Jason Day, who was at the time ranked No. 1 in the world (he's now No. 3), and later announced a new version of its retro Air Jordan shoe converted into a golf shoe.
With these moves, Nike is looking to keep its brand front and center among golf consumers in a product segments that are much more an element of its traditional core business — sports apparel and footwear — than golf clubs were. However, as with all aspects of the sportswear market, the golf segment is very competitive, and Nike may need to keep adding to it celebrity endorser stable. While McIlroy is No. 2 in the world and Day is now No. 3, the current No. 1 golfer in the world is Dustin Johnson — and he's with Adidas.