By Terry Trucco
For anyone who follows golf, June 19, 2011 will be remembered as Rory McIlroy Day, thanks to the charming, unaffected 22-year-old golfer from Northern Ireland who won the US Open with a spectacular 16-under-par 268.
Since high-end golf pros double as billboards at tournaments, the US Open’s other big winner was Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, which counts McIlroy as its Global Brand Ambassador. A winning golfer sporting a logo at a major is the next best thing to a TV ad during the Superbowl. Small wonder the Dubai-based hotel group, whose properties include Dubai’s iconic Burj al Arab and New York’s Jumeirah Essex House, prominently featured McIlroy and his trophy on its Web site the day after the big win.
Jumeirah’s portfolio includes international golf properties in addition to hotels. Still, we couldn’t help picturing legions of TV viewers, accustomed to seeing golf caps emblazoned with Nike or Titleist logos, scratching their heads over McIlroy’s Jumeirah affiliation, writ large on his white cap and colorful striped shirts.
How did the affiliation come about? Call it the Irish connection. McIlroy and Jumeirah’s Chief Financial Officer Alaistair Murray both hail from Holywood (population 12,000) in County Down. When McIlroy turned pro in 2007, Jumeirah stepped in with a sponsorship (the contract was extended for three more years in 2010). “Rory is an inspiration,” declared Jumeirah Chief Executive Gerald Lawless.
McIlroy, who won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009, has said he thinks of Dubai as a second home. (No word on whether he’s ever stayed in New York at the Essex House.) His other sponsors include Footjoy golf shoes, Audemars Piquet watches and even Titleist, but Jumeirah is most prominent. And though the group sponsors the Jumeirah Regatta and the Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes Race, McIlroy is clearly their marquee athlete. Nice choice.