Rory McIlroy’s decision to represent Ireland in the Olympics (and not Great Britain) has had some unintended and unpleasant consequences for his main sponsor, Nike.
According to a report published by the Irish Independent, Nike assumed that the Northern Ireland-born McIlroy would be playing for the United Kingdom in Rio. When the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland offered Nike the chance to provide the Irish team’s gear, Nike passed on the deal, worth between $1.5 million and $3 million.
“Just in case he declared for us, we went to Nike in the UK and told them we might have Rory. But they just dismissed us out of hand and now they regret it, I believe,” President Pat Hickey said. (Nike’s contract with McIlroy is worth an estimated $20 million a year.)
Then McIlroy announced that he’d be donning green, white, and orange to tee it up for golf’s return to the Olympics.
“I’m told that the Nike guys nearly collapsed when they heard what happened and that they’d missed a golden opportunity,” Hickey said.
Quite literally: Rory McIlroy could very well wind up wearing the first gold medal in golf since 1904. If he does, there won’t be a Nike swoosh beside it. Instead, New Balance’s logo will adorn McIlroy’s and the other Irish Olympians’ shirts, pants, hats, belt, and sunglasses. McIlroy’s golf bag will bear only the Team Ireland logo and the Olympic rings. He is allowed to wear Nike golf shoes and use his Nike clubs, however, because they count as “technical equipment.”
The British Olympians will be outfitted by Adidas, as they have been since 1984.