Rory McIlroy has been pinned by Nike as the heir-apparent to Tiger Woods as the face of their golf branding. According to USA Today, Nike signed McIlroy to a deal worth around $200-250 million over the course of 10 years.
Despite the lucrative deal and the amount of money Nike will put into advertising with McIlroy, the pairing won't be able to reach the same level of success that the company had with Woods.
This isn't an issue of success on the golf course, even though Woods' resume is overwhelming when compared to McIlroy's young career. Even if McIlroy reaches the level of matching some of the career achievements of Woods, he will still struggle to have the marketing impact that Woods previously did.
Not only was Woods loved within the sport by the golf community, but he also brought fans into the game. People who didn't follow golf knew who Woods was and most likely knew if he won or lost during a recent tournament. While Nike did a great job to market Woods, he did just as well to market himself.
Woods changed golf completely when he burst onto the scene. He had a different type of energy and attitude that came along with his success. His determination and competitive nature drew comparisons to Michael Jordan and other great competitors.
He took a sport that many in the general population viewed as mundane and made it cool. As more and more people tuned in to watch Woods play, the broadcasts became more and more Tiger-centric.
When Woods' health and personal life started to deteriorate, golf just wasn't as exciting as it was when Woods was winning tournaments left and right. An article in Forbes published in the middle of last year explains that it's good for golf when Woods wins.
Without Woods as a top golfer, there is a huge void left in golf marketing.
McIlroy has the chance to have all the success that it seemed only Woods could achieve. He became the youngest player to reach the world No. 1 ranking in March. He fell out of the spot and re-gained it a number of times, but he has held the top spot solidly since August.
He has been the face of golf for quite a while now, and that face should grow even larger with the Swoosh behind it. That said, being the face of golf simply isn't good enough to match the success Nike had with Woods. McIlroy just won't be able to bring people to golf the same way Woods did.