McIlroy is set to be joined by many of world golf’s big names, with Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood already confirmed to join Ireland’s golfing superstars McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke.
McIlroy said: “It’s great news that Dubai Duty Free has come on board as the title sponsor for this year’s Irish Open. Dubai Duty Free is a strong global brand with great experience in sports sponsorship through golf, tennis and horse racing. The European Tour and I both have strong links to Dubai, and I am sure Dubai Duty Free will bring a lot to the event and add to its already great prestige.”
One of the world’s leading airport retailers with a turnover of US$1.9 billion in 2014, Dubai Duty Free is already associated with The European Tour as sponsors of the DP World Tour Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, won at the Emirates Golf Club this year by McIlroy.
Dubai Duty Free’s golf portfolio also includes the Dubai Ladies Masters, as well as a series of high-profile events including the annual Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, Dubai Duty Free UAE Nationals Cup, Dubai Duty Free Golf Cup and Dubai Irish Golf Society tournament.
The retailer has many other connections to sport. Dubai Duty Free owns and stages the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which reaches a global audience of over 400 million TV viewers and generates media exposure of US$718 million. A keen supporter of horseracing, the operation is probably best known in Ireland for its sponsorship of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, one of Ireland’s most prestigious races which is held at the Curragh Racecourse in June. This year marks the 150th running of the historic race. The company also sponsors the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot and Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials and Dubai Duty Free International Raceday at Newbury.
Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin said: “Sports sponsorship plays a huge role in our overall marketing strategy, it fosters goodwill and allows our brand to travel all around the globe.
“We are delighted to become the title sponsor of the Irish Open hosted by The Rory Foundation. The tournament has a tremendous history and is the flagship golf event in Ireland providing thrilling golfing action for spectators, golf fans and television viewers around the world. This year’s tournament features a fantastic line up and we are very much looking forward to working with Rory McIlroy and his Foundation, The European Tour, Tourism Northern Ireland and the members and management of Royal County Down on this prestigious sporting event.”
Northern Ireland’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster: said: “I welcome the announcement that Dubai Duty Free is to become title sponsor of the Irish Open. The partnership with Dubai Duty Free will further raise the profile of the tournament when it takes place in Northern Ireland this year, and again in 2017, and will help to increase our reputation as a fantastic golfing destination. This sponsorship announcement is further proof that we are establishing Northern Ireland as the home of great events with which world class brands wish to be associated.”
The European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said: “We are delighted to welcome Dubai Duty Free as a title sponsor on The European Tour and look forward to expanding our partnership with another powerful global brand which has vast experience in the sports sponsorship market.
“By becoming the title sponsor to the Irish Open, Dubai Duty Free is making its mark on golf’s world stage and further showcasing the close collaboration that exists between so many of Dubai’s leading companies and The European Tour. With many of the game’s biggest names competing on the iconic links of Royal County Down, we believe the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by The Rory Foundation will deliver superb value to Dubai Duty Free and all of our event partners.”
More than 80,000 spectators are expected and tens of thousands of tickets have already been sold for the event, which is supported by Tourism Northern Ireland.