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What kind of Nike poster boy will Rory McIlroy be?

By Jim Boulden, CNN
January 14, 2013 -- Updated 1717 GMT (0117 HKT)
Rory McIlroy penned a
Rory McIlroy penned a "multi-year" deal with Nike, according to Nike Golf President Cindy Davis.
  • In November, Forbes Magazine said Woods "delivered" 50% more for his brands than McIlroy in 2012.
  • For Nike, it's not just about celebrities endorsing products. It's about products themselves, writes Boulden

Editor's note: Jim Boulden is a correspondent for CNN's international programming based in London, where he covers a wide range of business and news stories. Follow him on Twitter.

London (CNN) -- I remember well the shock when in 2000 Alex Rodriquez signed a 10 year, a quarter of a billion dollar deal ($252 million) to play baseball with the Texas Rangers.

It was beyond reality, and it didn't work out for the Rangers. He was later traded to the Yankees who happily increased the deal. Good for Rodriguez.

But at least he was being paid to work.

Rory McIlroy has now become Nike's poster boy -- certainly there will be a lot of strings attached; but he's not being paid by Nike to swing a club. He'll get millions more to do that.

Read more: Nike unveils Rory McIlroy: Tiger's heir apparent

Good for McIlroy. It's a better deal from Nike than Woods got.

His baseball cap now switches from Titleist to the Nike tick. TV ads have already been shot.

Now, I wonder which stable of Nike's sports stallions will he join?

Will he join Roger Federer and Michael Jordan at causing little or no offenses on or off the field of play?

Will he join Lance Armstrong and one day cause a massive scandal putting his Nike contract in jeopardy?

Or will he join the middle rank of bad boy athletes who's off the field scandals don't cost them their Nike deal; think Kobe Bryant or of course, Tiger Woods.

What's the difference? Lance Armstrong is accused of cheating his fans and his beloved sport and cashed in on that cheating. But remember, Nike actually stood by Armstrong for months in 2012, when all others headed for the exit.

It seemed to have taken Nike's top brass some time to realize the evidence was too strong to ignore. His upcoming 'confession' will hopefully clarify his involvement in doping.

Tiger has never been accused of on-the-field cheating. Still, he lost many of his sponsors while Nike hung on. The others could not stand the heat.

For Nike, it's not just about celebrities endorsing products. It's about products themselves. Air Jordans are sold through jumpman23, a fully fledged subsidiary of Nike. It includes endorsements from good guy athletes like CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Josh Freeman.

Kit sold through Federer and Woods are not subsidiaries of Nike, but you can't miss the connection.

In November, Forbes Magazine said Woods "delivered" 50% more ($6 million) for his brands than McIlroy in 2012. I wonder if it will be the same will be in 2013, as McIlroy will undoubtedly remain World No. 1 in golf rankings this year and now shoots near the top as a global sports brand.

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