Coming to a billboard near you... poster boy Rory McIlroy hits big time with Nick sponsorship deal

Nike finally confirm, with a fanfare, its £155m sponsorship of world No 1 today

Rory McIlroy will be formally unveiled today as the face of Nike Golf, which must be a relief for player and company executives, sworn to silence despite the switch to the swoosh being the talk of the sport for months.

McIlroy was photographed last week warming up for this week's HSBC Champions event in Abu Dhabi using Nike sticks etched with his name. Still no acknowledgment from Nike HQ. There was, however, an invite from the company to attend a ceremony today with a "special guest". Who might that be?The association is said to be worth $250m (£155m) over 10 years to the world No 1, an increase of some 500 per cent on existing sponsorship deals, making McIlroy the highest-earning golfer after Tiger Woods.

At just 23 and already the world No 1 by a huge margin, McIlroy is Nike's investment in the future, leading a stable that from the start of this year also embraced twentysomething Americans Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley plus Korean supernova Noh Seung-yul, talented lads all but very much the junior partners in this arrangement.

McIlroy had existing deals with Dubai golf estate Jumeirah, Spanish bank Santander and Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet, plus American clothing supplier Oakley. Some have gone quietly. Oakley not so, and is pursuing McIlroy through the courts in California over what it claims was first refusal to renew a deal that ran out at the end of last year. That will not get in the way of today's fanfare. More of an issue is the impact Brand McIlroy might have on the player.

Sir Nick Faldo was on to this issue early, questioning the wisdom of ditching the Titleist clubs and ball, with which he won two majors, for the prestige and booty of the association with Nike. Faldo was rather graceless in attacking McIlroy over a move he believes is rooted in pound notes, but he was on more solid ground with his concern about the change in equipment and the possible consequences.

"As professional golfers we get a millisecond of feedback from impact, and if you get that lovely feedback and the ball goes where you want it, that's a tick in the confidence box. But if you think, 'oh, that felt different' and the ball doesn't go where you want it to go, it starts to eat away at your confidence," Faldo said.

The behaviour of the ball is the more critical element. McIlroy could beat most players with a set of hickory clubs. When he has not been chained to the top of buildings on the far side of the world with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, McIlroy has been on the range immersing himself in Nike world to get used to his new materials. His first outing of the year coincides with the seasonal debut of Woods, who turned pro with Nike in 1996 in that "Hello World" ad campaign, part of a deal worth $40m.

According to Faldo, the indelible link between Woods and Nike ought to have been sufficient to dissuade McIlroy from joining the club. "I'm surprised he's going to Nike," he said. "Tiger has made that his brand and to join someone else's brand really surprises me, as I thought he would stick to his own thing. Rory could easily start the Rory brand and build his own identity. He's that popular he doesn't need to be a Nike guy, or Adidas guy or whatever. When you're 23 and world No 1, what a great time to build the Rory brand, a true brand, not somebody else's."

Faldo misses the point. It is not McIlroy's kit that defines him but the pots he wins and the way he does it. Unless Faldo is working for free when he designs courses and appears on TV as a pundit, he cannot blame McIlroy for taking the coin, especially as this arrangement simplifies the sponsor-player relationship for a return five times greater than he was earning as a walking billboard.

The HSBC Champions tournament in Abu Dhabi is the first of five scheduled by McIlroy before the Masters in the second week of April. In a sense the Masters is the portal through which McIlroy entered the hearts of America. The crushing loss on the final day in 2011, when he blew a four-shot lead and carved his tee-shot on the 10th behind the Eisenhower Cabin, sealed an emotional deal few manage in victory. Two months later he returned to claim the US Open at Congressional by a record margin a month into his 22nd year. The surprise is that it took Nike another 18 months to make a move.

The McIlroy-Woods dynamic is golf's dream ticket in 2013, a nascent rivalry that is essentially waiting for Woods to catch up with the Ulsterman. Three times a winner on the PGA Tour last year, Woods is once more a fixture on leaderboards. The consistency is returning if not yet the power surge. McIlroy has both. He signed off 2012 in neighbouring Dubai with five birdies on the bounce to claim his fifth win of the year, a record that took him to the top of the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Just do it, says Nike. McIlroy put muscle on the slogan that day. And for $250m, Nike is betting there will be many more Sundays like it, golf's new poster boy scorching the earth just like Tiger used to.

Rory's record: Mcilroy by numbers

-16

McIlroy's record winning score at the 2011 US Open, his first major

30

Weeks spent at world No 1 by the Ulsterman

10

Professional wins recorded by McIlroy – including two majors

Endorsed earners: big sponsorships

* Rory McIlroy's deal with Nike dwarfs other endorsements in sport:

David Beckham (football) Adidas, £100m.

Tiger Woods (golf) Nike, £61.98m

LeBron James (basketball) Nike, £55.7m

Roger Federer (tennis) Nike, Rolex, Credit Suisse, Wilson, £27.8m.

Phil Mickelson (golf) Callaway and others, £26.65m

Cristiano Ronaldo (football) Nike, £20.14m

Kobe Bryant (basketball) Nike, £17.35m.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style