Rory McIlroy: Global Golf Partnership chief speaks out about new sponsor deal

Rory McIlroy will receive £5m from Titleist to provide one in-store TV advert in the UK

Brand new Golf Sponsorship deal was struck after a decade of negotiations Golf’s main organiser has said there is “no more virility left” in the sport despite announcing a landmark sponsorship deal. The PGA Tour of America held a news conference on Wednesday to reveal that golfer Rory McIlroy would receive £5m to provide one in-store TV advert in the UK. However, company executives have told BBC Sport there is more to the announcement than just image enhancements. “I feel there is an athletic power in the sport today that they were missing before,” Keith Pelley, who chairs Global Golf Partnership, which represents firms including Nike, Rolex and Deutsche Bank in the sport, told BBC Sport. “There is a similar challenge facing other sports, specifically the National Football League and Major League Baseball. They’ve got issues with image, but it is only a match of ambition.” “Global Golf Partnership teams up with championship tournaments and the PGA Tour to generate a broad range of partnerships,” said Pelley. “For example, we have a deal with our association with the Blackstone Open. That was a struggle before I joined the role. “I do believe golf has found a new wave, has new groups of fans now, and is beyond significant to brands. “We have increased our athlete portfolio to now include several A-listers. In the recent past, I have been thinking of whether golf has more virility left, whether the sport can drive more revenues – it is still very young. “We’ve got great stars, now how do we do everything possible to create more. The reason we chose Rory McIlroy is because he is globally recognised, has an incredible play, and would enhance our tour.” Asked why he believes there is a “new wave” of fans, Pelley said: “I think golf has become well known. “It is among the top three sports in the world. For the first time, this March, golf had three competitors in the Open Championship and more golfers entered than all but three other sports combined. “It is no longer a niche sport. It is at the sporting summit. “Golf is no longer out there on its own and doesn’t want to be. That is why our approach to Rory McIlroy was a 180 degrees 180 degrees different to Tiger Woods. We are now in partnership with him, after competing for many years. “There is a perceived softness in golf that is no longer there. Golf has come of age, with amazing exuberance and excitement.” Details of the new deal with McIlroy, also known as Rory the Rottweiler, were unveiled at the PGA Tour headquarters in Florida. The first TV advert starring the Northern Irishman will be shown in the first week of the Scottish Open in July. Once McIlroy ends a long break from the Tour, his brand will have generated a fresh sponsorship challenge for PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. As the sport’s major sponsors have tightened their purse strings in recent years, Finchem has faced questions over how the Tour can effectively fund tournaments when corporate sponsorship falls short. Kia Trucks is now the only major brand that has not decreased its footprint on the Tour. However, the 19-time PGA Tour winner Pelley believes the huge appeal of McIlroy, along with young talent Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, will finally help make the Tour viable. “Rory and Jordan and Rickie are very popular, they are internationally recognised, they are ambassadors of the game around the world,” said Pelley. “But we need to be careful about people exaggerating the power of the position. We’re one of the most popular sports in the world, we’ve never been more popular, but the standard of sponsorship has gone up and that needs to happen. “As a sport, we’ve always been much larger than the markets we play in. We are in the heart of every major market in the world. “The rest of golf has basically peaked, now we need to start cultivating a next generation of stars who can drive the sport further.”

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