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Big sponsors fight for piece of Rory McIlroy

By Cormac Byrne

A massive bidding war is expected to ignite between automotive giants Audi and BMW when Rory McIlroy's current endorsement deals expire, according to marketing experts.

The value of his current endorsements is estimated at around £10million, but this figure will sky-rocket as massive global brands seek to cash in on his marketability.

Experts expect automakers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to compete for possible McIlroy deals.

Smartphone purveyors Samsung, LG and AT&T are also expected to line up to sponsor McIlroy.

It is believed that a couple of clothing companies — not Nike — have already approached McIlroy's agency International Sports Management to “clean up the logos,” which would basically mean buying out the existing sponsorships on his apparel.

The manner of his US Open victory in Maryland over the weekend has catapulted McIlroy into the limelight.

Massive new sponsorship deals are not going to happen in the immediate short term as, for example, his contract with Audemars Piguet — the luxury watch manufacturer with whom he fulfiled a corporate engagement in Massachusetts on Monday — runs until 2014 and he only signed a new three-year deal with the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group last year.

Experts believe McIlroy is perfectly placed with companies and brands eager to latch onto the next star.

“The golf and sports marketing communities are hungering for that next golf superstar and want to anoint someone right away,” said sports marketing guru Kevin Adler, president of Engage Marketing.

“Rory is humble and cracks an easy smile without being such a robo-golfer about it all.

“With a few more big wins, Rory can easily start monetising his image in a huge way by doing more US tournaments.

“The hat and the shirt each are going to become two of the most valuable pieces of real estate in golf.

“He's the image sponsors want for the young end of the luxury market. He's the leader of the young guns influencing the game today.”

The combination of the 22-year-old's talent, youthfulness and personality possibly gives him the earning power of the world's biggest sporting superstars.

Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency Brand Rapport, said: “He has the potential to do what Roger Federer, Michael Schumacher and Tiger Woods have done.

“Golf, motor racing, boxing and tennis are the big-earning sports. If he was to dominate golf, like he could do, for a number of years, he could get up towards the one billion-dollar mark.

He added: “He is so young and a precocious talent. The youthfulness gives him a unique factor and he comes across very well.

“He has put himself right in pole position and the next stepping stone is to establish himself as number one for a period of a few years.”

Steve Martin, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment, said: “Over the next 10

years he is going to be the £100million man — not dollars, pounds. It is that scary.

“But there are few sportsmen with the potential to transcend the sport. Up until last night Rory McIlroy was always an amazing young golfer.

“Now he is an amazing superstar sportsman and the potential to double his earnings is very, very realistic.

“His appeal is unusual because he is so young.

“He has broken all those records and Irishmen in America go down very well.”

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