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Nike confirms McIlroy signing

ESPN staff
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Rory McIlroy now shares a main sponsor with Tiger Woods © PA Photos
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Nike have confirmed the start of a lucrative endorsement partnership with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, in a long-term deal worth millions of pounds.

At a carefully-orchestrated event in Abu Dhabi, where McIlroy is scheduled to begin his 2013 campaign later in the week, the Northern Irishman was formally unveiled as a Nike golfer - joining the world No. 2, Tiger Woods, who was also at the event.

Woods, who famously uttered the phrase "Hello, world" when turning professional to much fanfare back in 1996, had a simple message for McIlroy: "Welcome to the family."

The pair are set to play together in the opening two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which gets underway on Thursday.

"I play for titles, I don't play for money," two-time major champion McIlroy said, when asked about the endorsement. "I'm way past that."

He added: "I chose Nike for a number of reasons. It's a company and a brand that really resonates with me. It's young. It's athletic. It's innovative. They are committed to being the best, as am I.

"Signing with Nike is another step towards living out my dream."

The 23-year-old will wear Nike clothes and use the company's clubs, having shed prior sponsorship deals with the likes of Titleist and Jumeirah to enter the wide-ranging arrangement.

The athletic brand have not disclosed the terms of the deal, but experts believe it could be worth more than $20 million a year for the next decade.

"It's a monumental deal, for several reasons," Bob Dorfman, an athlete compensation expert and executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, told Sports Illustrated. "It may very well be the largest endorsement deal in history for an active athlete."

Dorfman added: "More than just about any other sport, golf has broad international appeal.

"It's popular here [in the United States], in Europe, in Asia, most everywhere in the world. And marketers are definitely thinking globally these days. McIlroy is an athlete who could appeal to and influence a broad demographic, across all continents."

Nike have been active in acquiring new ambassadors over the winter break, with Nick Watney, Thorbjorn Olesen and Kyle Stanley among a number of notable players to have joined the stable along with McIlroy.

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