On the face it of, there are a lot of comparisons between Rory McIlroy and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. Young, rich and Nike swooshed, they are two of the biggest sports stars on the planet.
But as McIlroy attempts to shake free of his contract with Horizon Sports Management and strike out on his own with Rory McIlroy Incorporated, it’s plain that he’s as valuable as the 21-year old Brazil and FC Barcelona sensation in terms of the exploitation of his image. No wonder he’s keen to hold on to as much of his cash as he can.
While Forbes placed McIlroy 21st in its list of the world’s highest paid athletes with $29.6m compared to 68th ranked Neymar’s $20.5m - it remains to be seen who will be out in front after next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Little wonder that SportsPro Media ranked him the world’s most marketable athlete ahead of Messi and McIlroy last May.
This is no Brazilian ragamuffin, snatched from a favela and taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents. As Woody Allen wrote in his fictional account of a poor shepherd discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: “Inside the jars were discovered six parchment scrolls with ancient, incomprehensible writing which the shepherd, in his ignorance, sold to the museum for $750,000 apiece.”
In a detailed report in the Barcelona sports daily “Sport” today, it’s plain to see the huge potential of young sports stars like McIlroy and Neymar, the pencil thin footballing magician they describe as “the rookie who learned fast.”
Under the supervision of his father, Neymar da Silva Santos, the best paid young footballer on the planet has a team of 22 professionals looking after his affairs full-time - sales executives, communications specialists, a financial expert, secretaries and administrators and even a security team.
He also has 25 external collaborators he can call on when needed, the paper reports.
Lionel Messi’s affairs are looked after by his father Jorge with the help of just one executive while Cristiano Ronaldo’s are all in the hands of Gestifute, the all powerful football agency managed by Jorge Mendes.
Rory McIlroy Inc will have just 12 employees for now but how it will compare to the Neymar set up, remains to be seen.
In 2006, when he was till just a 14 year old starlet, Neymar received €400,000 from Santos and turned down an offer from Real Madrid before his parents opened a sports management agency using his initials - NR Sports.
By the time he was 18, huge offers were coming in from Europe but while they were unable to compete economically, Santos offered Neymar a career plan, inspired by the models used by big businesses around the world. By exploiting his image, Santos offered Neymar 60 percent of his image rights, creating a Career Management Department at the club with four people working exclusively for Neymar _ Eduardo Musa (head manager), Gabriela Pozzi (product licensing and diary), Rodrigo Galo (logistics, travel and games) and Helena Passarelli (media manager).
Santos and Neymar Snr then sought out new sponsors with huge success and within a short time, 92 percent of his income was derived from the exploitation of his image rights, ie sponsorship.
All of this was helped by his tremendous success on the pitch- when he was 19, he almost single-handedly won the Copa Libertadores – his charisma and Brasil’s economic boom and the emergence of a middle class estimated at around 20 million people.
When he signed for Barcelona for €57m this summer he had 11 sponsors - three global brands in Nike, Panasonic and Red Bull and eight Brazilian contracts - Tennys Pé (foot hygiene), Lupo (underwear), Claro (mobile phone), Guaraná Antárctica (soft drinks), Santander, Unilever, Volkswagen y Heliar (car batteries).
He also licensed a line of jeans (Rock & Soda Jeans), toys (Gulliver), sweets (Mentos), stationary and gift products, as well as a limited edition fragrances through Guy Laroche’s Drakkar Noir.
He also has an agreement with Maurício de Sousa, the Brazlilian Walt Disney, producing comics featuring Neymar, which is a strategy designed to opened up the kid’s market.
His staff have made strategic alliances with advertising agencies Traffic, 9ine and IMX Talent (owned by Eike Batista, Brasil’s richest man and the seventh richest on the planet according to Forbes./
His commercial brand, NJR (Neymar Jnr) was designed by the agency Loducca. No wonder his shirt at Barcelona bears the words Neymar Jr rather than just Neymar.
Signing for FC Barcelona will make Neymar and even bigger star worldwide and his bank account continues to bulge.
His signing bonus was €40m and is paid €7.5m a year as well as retaining 100 percent of his image rights. London based Doyen Global has been signed up to manage his image rights in Asia until 2017 for which he is paid 60% whateve they can generate. Europe and the US are next on the list.
Nike have not sat idly by and last spring, when the deal with Barça was being hammered out, the CEO of Nike, Mark Parker (57 years old) travelled from Oregon to Sao Paolo to meet with Neymar Snr and explain the benefits of signing for a Nike-club such as Barcelona.
McIlroy and his advisors have huge plans for Rory McIlroy Inc. Watching it grow, once the legal entanglements with Horizon Sports Management are settled, will be fascinating.