Nike Turns to Twitter to Maximize Sponsorship of Golfer Rory McIlroy

Sports giant Nike had a valuable club in its bag while brainstorming ways to capitalize on its 10-year, £150 million-plus ($220 million-plus) contract with golfer Rory McIlroy: Twitter.

RoryMcIlroySports giant Nike had a valuable club in its bag while brainstorming ways to capitalize on its 10-year, £150 million-plus ($220 million-plus) contract with golfer Rory McIlroy: Twitter.

Cassie Hayes, a marketing executive at Twitter analytics platform SocialBro, examined Nike’s use of Twitter as part of its sponsorship of McIlroy, noting that the company began to emphasize digital in 2010, slashing its U.S. television and print budget by 40 percent that year and diverting those funds toward digital.

According to Hayes, there is a 10 percent crossover on Twitter between Nike Golf and McIlroy, versus just 3.2 percent for Adidas Golf and McIlroy, and 83.3 percent of tweets by Nike Golf mentioned or tagged McIlroy.

She added that this past weekend’s Masters Golf Tournament marked a key proving ground for golf brands and their sponsorship deals, with Twitter and other social networks playing major roles, saying:

Highlighting the strength (or lack thereof) of a brand’s and sponsor’s mutual following on social media can help quantify a relationship, whether it’s used as a measurement to determine the success of a partnership or if there is scope to initiate a partnership.

According to Hayes, the much larger crossover between the Twitter audiences of McIlroy and Nike Golf versus that of the golfer and Adidas Golf was highlighted by Nike Golf’s spurt of more than 2,200 followers after its “Ripple” ad featuring McIlroy was released April 5.

The golfer has more than 2.37 million followers on Twitter.

Hayes concluded:

It’s not enough to have an above-the-line advertising focus for sponsorships anymore. Brands are continually finding more and more innovative ways to push their sponsorship deals to the limit, and social media provides the perfect forum. With access to a torrent of public data available through open social networks such as Twitter, a brand like Nike can use social data to identify opportunities for promoting awareness of its spinoff brands further.

By examining the crossover between its own Twitter audience and McIlroy’s, Nike Golf can further define its buyer personas and feed that insight directly into its targeting strategy. Nike’s alignment with golfing pro McIlroy not only makes sense from a branding perspective, McIlroy’s strong online presence ties in directly with its agenda to increase ecommerce sales through cross-channel promotion. With Nike reporting ecommerce sales up 42 percent, the brand’s long-term focus on cross-channel promotion is starting to take effect.

Golf fans: Do you follow McIlroy, Nike Golf or Adidas Golf on Twitter?

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