Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Rory McIlroy has his eye on the ball when it comes to sponsors

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Golf superstar Rory McIlroy is extremely choosy about who he does business with, it has been revealed.

The Co Down native might just have turned 24 but he is rapidly garnering a reputation as a canny businessman, skilled at maximising his sponsorship stake from a small number of carefully selected and internationally recognisable names.

Preserving the clean-cut image appears to be as much of a priority as the figure on the cheque -- "I don't want a lot of sponsors. I want a few quality ones," he has said.

McIlroy is also on record as declaring that endorsements cannot be allowed to cut too deeply into his practice schedule -- "I have to remember what got me this far". He admits he says no to 95pc of the companies who approach him and those he chooses, together with management company Horizon, must fit the McIlroy persona.

He is currently the third highest earner among golfers, behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, a ranking achieved largely through the eye-watering fee he managed to command from Nike, estimated to be worth $20m a year.

In the past four months, McIlroy has added Swiss watchmaker Omega, the official timepiece of James Bond and the Olympics, a brand synonymous with excellence and style. Other celebrity ambassadors include George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.

His other endorsements are the high-quality audio equipment company Bose and Santander Bank.

Before McIlroy signed with the watch company, he discussed his decision with his self-confessed "role model", the tennis superstar Roger Federer, according to 'The New York Times'.

Federer is another sports celebrity who has managed to preserve his own personality, grace and integrity, in the whirlpool of sponsorship offers and endorsement deals.

In his choices, McIlroy is keenly guided by two Irishmen, Conor Ridge and Colin Morrissey, who founded the Dublin-based Horizon Sports in 2005.

Horizon has said that there will be no endorsements unless they reflect McIlroy's combination of authenticity and approachability.

And, of course, the golfer himself, who is renowned for his wilful nature and his tendency to be honest to a fault, has the final say.

One issue Rory is adamant about -- he will never endorse an alcoholic beverage.

Instead, the precious free space on his golf bag carries the name of a different children's charity every week and the bag is auctioned at the end of a tournament.

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