By Tom Degun

Rory-Mcilroy NikeJanuary 14 - Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy has secured a major deal with Nike reported to be worth over £150 million ($241 million/€180 million) in a move that makes him one of the highest paid sports stars in the world.

The 23-year-old world golf number one from County Down was formally unveiled as Nike's newest brand ambassador today at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Although the exact details of the deal were not disclosed, McIlroy is set to earn £156 million ($251 million/€188 million) in a ten-year deal.

The figure is a combination of salary, bonuses and sponsorship.

The deal dwarfs fellow golfer Tiger Woods' £124 million ($199 million/€149 million) ten-year deal with Nike while it is also significantly bigger than the estimated £100 million ($161 million/€120 million) lifetime deal footballer David Beckham has with Nike's major rival Adidas.

"I chose Nike for a number of reasons," said McIlroy.

"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."

McIlroy, who is in a high-profile relationship with Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, will now use Nike's full range of clubs, balls, clothing and accessories competitively for the first time in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship later this week against a field that also includes Woods, the current world number two.

Rory McIlroy Nike advertRory McIlroy is set to be the new face of Nike, who are planning a worldwide advetising campaign

The deal sees McIlroy part company with Titleist, with who he won his two major titles, and with Oakley, who are threatening legal action against him after claiming that they had "right of first refusal" to sponsor the Northern Irishman when his contract with them expired at the end of last month.

The deal is a major coup for Nike, who believe that McIlroy will help boost their sales of clubs, balls and clothing in the American and European markets, where the world number has huge fan-bases.

"Rory is an extraordinary athlete who creates enormous excitement with his on-course performance while, at the same time, connecting with fans everywhere," said Nike Golf President Cindy Davis, who was present with McIlroy at today's annoucement. 

"He is the epitome of a Nike athlete and he is joining our team during the most exciting time in Nike Golf's history.

"We are looking forward to partnering with him to take his remarkable career to the next level."

McIlroy earned over $13 million ($21 million/€16 million) in prize money last season and around $15 million ($24 million/€18 million) in endorsements and appearance money.

The latest deal, which bars him from taking other endorsements as part of the agreement, means McIlroy would likely be the highest paid athlete at the Rio 2016 Olympics if he decides to compete when the sport makes its first appearance at the Games in over 100 years.

Rory McIlroy and Tiger WoodsNike is now represented by the world's top two golfers, Rory McIlroy (right) and Tiger Woods (left)

The golfer admitted recently that he may opt out of the Olympics as he is undecided over whether to represent Britain or Ireland at the Games given that he is eligible for both.

But his absence would be a major blow golf's continued participation at the Olympics.

According to Forbes, American boxer Floyd Mayweather was sports highest earner in 2012 with an estimated £54.2 million ($87 million/€65.2 million) with fellow fighter Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines in second and Woods in third.

Basketball player LeBron James of the United States was fourth, and incidentally the highest earning athlete at the London 2012 Olympics, with £33.82 million ($54.31 million/€40.66 million) while Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, who also competed at London 2012, was fifth.

But McIlroy's new deal means he looks set to eclipse all of them.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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