Understandably there has been plenty of talk this week about Rory McIlroy. It was near impossible for the world to ignore his splashy debut as a Nike Golf athlete.
Surrounding that, speculation has been rampant about the signing going back months. Hundreds of headlines around the world have splashed around dollar sums connected to the deal, all based purely on speculation as the details have never been released.
Undoubtedly the contract is a healthy one, everything about McIlroy, his pedigree, accomplishments, and potential, justifies what he will be paid for whatever term may be noted in the paperwork. Sure, the two-time major winner is likely pulling in a greater dollar figure than if he had stayed with his previous equipment sponsor but face it, he already has more than enough money to be comfortable for the rest of his life.
In my mind this deal is less about chasing money. It has a deeper, more emotional meaning.
In a world where media and public scrutiny applies a tremendous of pressure on a public figure like Rory, being involved with Nike Golf, and in particular the parent company, Nike, provides something very rare.
What is that you may be asking? Really, it as simple as a child-like joy. It’s the feeling that can be so fleeting as our lives grow increasingly complicated. Even more so for somebody of his stature.
There is no question that Rory had to have some critical needs met in the deal. A golfer trusts and depends on their equipment in a massive way and there is no possibility that he would have been attracted to Nike Golf had they not been able to make golf clubs he could perform his best with.
Beyond the equipment though, Nike, unlike any other golf-involved company, save for maybe adidas with their long heritage in sport, can help an athlete maintain the bliss of childhood.
Being affiliated with Nike carries with it the similar intangibles that being involved with adidas does for Sergio Garcia, a massive football fan. Rory now has a defined link to his favourite football (soccer) club, Manchester United, to a golfer he looked up to in Tiger Woods, and to an iconic brand that touches just about every aspect of sport, something that filled his childhood and brought him the greatest happiness in his young life.
Rory is part of the “Just Do It” generation and seeing his reaction to extra Nike perks like something as simple as free running shoes, even when he can more than afford them, reveals his emotional tie to the brand and his youth. Being in the Nike family means a lot of “cool” perks and an attachment to people and moments in sports from a very exclusive insider perspective.
That is something that is more powerful than money, something that even when the pressures of the world are creeping in on Rory and everybody wants a piece of him, will always be his own.
McIroy might just be 23 years old but he has grown up fast. I’m sure he recognizes that.
In the heady world that is now his life being a part of the Nike Golf, and by extension, Nike, should go a long way to reminding him what it felt like to be a kid, each and every day.
Millionaire or otherwise, that’s pretty compelling.