Rory McIlroy’s Nike deal looms as he ditches long-time sponsor Jumeirah

David Cannon

Rory McIlroy’s moving on from a long-time Dubai-based sponsor as Nike readies the welcome wagon.

When Rory McIlroy finally announces on Monday that he’s signed with Tiger Woods’ Team Nike, the golf world will expel a collective, “So what else is new?” But for those who harbor any residual doubt about the former Titleist and Oakley pitchman moving to Beaverton, the ending of his long-term contract with Jumeirah Group provides one more hint about what No. 1 will be wearing when he and Woods kick off their 2013 seasons next week at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

The Dubai-based hotel chain’s insignia has burnished the front of McIlroy’s cap for five years, but he’ll trade that in for one with a swoosh after Jumeirah Group confirmed Tuesday it would not renew its endorsement deal with the marketable young lad from Northern Ireland.

The separation, which the company announced as a celebration of McIlroy’s success, appeared to be amicable, as each party praised the other.

“Jumeirah became my first corporate sponsor when I turned professional back in 2007, and I would like to thank everyone at the company for their support in helping me become the player I am today,” McIlroy said in a statement. “I have enjoyed five very exciting and successful years with Jumeirah and will always have great memories of my time with the company. Celebrating my first professional win at the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic with the Jumeirah team was a particular highlight!"

For his part, Jumeirah president and group chief executive Gerald Lawless lauded his former cash cow.

“We are extremely proud of Rory’s rise to the number one spot with Jumeirah as his principal sponsor since he turned professional. We are delighted with his consistent support of Jumeirah hotels & resorts around the world,” Lawless said effusively. “He has been a tremendous ambassador for our brand both as a consummate golfing professional and as a young man with a great future ahead of him. We wish him continued success and we will continue to share a passion for his achievements and to welcome him in each of our hotels.”

The declaration, on top of the ending of his pact with Titleist’s Acushnet Co. in October, paves the way for McIlroy to ink what observers believe will be in the neighborhood of a 10-year, $250 million contract with Nike. There’s still the matter of that lawsuit Oakley has filed, charging McIlroy and Nike with a breach of contract, to deal with, but other than that, all signs point to a new look for the Ulsterman.

The company that Woods put on the golf map has promised a “major announcement” on Jan. 14 -- ahead of the Jan.17-20 European Tour event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Act surprised.

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