In a largely forgettable summer for the British sports fan, one man stood head and shoulders above the rest. Rory McIlroy began his golden run of form at the BMW PGA Championship in May, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Nike – the brand that supplies the 25 year old with his equipment and has done since the start of 2013 – invited McIlroy to open their Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield Links in Scotland at the start of July. There, in front of media and a selection of handpicked guests, he talked of continuing that good run of form from Wentworth into the summer. Many talk the talk, but few have the stride pattern to back it up. McIlroy took the baton and ran. As hard and as fast as he could towards glory.
A maiden Open Championship title at Hoylake two weeks after the event at Archerfield was followed by a World Golf Championship victory in Akron, Ohio.
And, in one of the most dramatic final days in the history of the US PGA Championship, McIlroy fought hard to claim his second major of the summer. Three tournament wins in as many starts and the media coverage confirmed that he was the darling of the British sporting summer. A man born for the biggest stage was delivering the goods when it mattered most.
Fit, strong and hungry for more success, McIlroy is the very embodiment of the modern athletic golfer, the modern golf athlete.
When Nike signed him to much fanfare back in January last year, there were whispers from detractors who said the equipment change would hold him back. Those detractors are few and far between now, and his performances have given the golf industry a welcome shot in the arm.
Recent reports suggest the sport is in terminal decline, not helped by the oversupply of clubs in the retail market. Nike Golf believe their new commercial strategy will change that and benefit the consumer, while elevating their brand in a fiercely competitive industry.
“Rory’s stellar recent performances are testament to the ability of the athlete,” says Angus Moir, general manager of Nike Golf Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
“He has commented many times on the combination of VRS Covert 2.0 Tour driver and RZN ball, quite literally a driving force that has given him a tremendous platform to start his assault on every tournament he enters.
McIlroy buys into Nike Golf’s idea of constant progression in the pursuit of excellence
“That also validates the hard work of our product and sports marketing teams, who strive tirelessly to create great clubs, balls, footwear and apparel for not only the likes of Rory McIlroy and our other tour staff, but also the recreational golfer who wants to improve as much as he or she can.”
Daniel Schenk, marketing director for Nike Golf EMEA, adds: “The effect of Rory’s summer performances cannot be underestimated. The energy he brings to the game is incredible, and the emotional connection fans have with him and the way he plays the game make him an obvious favourite.
“We believe the golf industry is changing and we will be at the forefront of this change because the consumer journey needs to get better. And it will.”
All very well, but what does that actually mean?
“In the past, the retail experience for a golfer going into a green grass store has sometimes been variable to say the least,” says Brian Karl, sales director of Nike Golf EMEA.
“We are elevating our brand – and this is to do with distribution, promotions and how we go to market. We have identified key partners, who understand our mission and want to help us execute things in a better way.
“Instead of promotions, we will work with these retailers to help us concentrate on enhanced sell-through. And finally the way our product is displayed at retail will be easier for the golfer to navigate, find what he or she’s looking for, and be inspired by our equipment and apparel collections.”
Nike is a company whose history is based on innovation – from running shoes to football boots and from golf clubs to golf balls. But there’s always better; there’s no finish line at Nike.
McIlroy buys into this idea of constant progression in the pursuit of excellence. On his way to victory at The Open, he used a prototype 2 iron to good effect and a month later helped to launch the Vapor irons franchise at Liberty National in New York. And just last week, at the Ryder Cup, he put Nike’s new Vapor Pro driver into play as Europe took on the US team at Gleneages, citing an additional ten to fifteen yards distance off the tee.
For Nike Golf, there’s always better – and for the end-consumer, who wants to engage with the brand, this rings true too.