Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sports World Welcomes Wozzilroy

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The level of media attention over the past weeks has even surprised Rory McIlroy, which says a lot, given he has lived his life in the spotlight for the past decade, even after securing his first major at Congressional in the summer at the age of twenty two. In winning the richest prize in golf last week in China, by beating American Anthony Kim at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters after a final-round shoot-out, the Holywood golfer certainly courted more attention for his playing talents. However there are two other events which have fuelled the current media frenzy, the first being the dramatic switch in management companies, as he left International Sports Management to join Dublin based Horizon Sports.

It is the second issue thought that is the real curiosity factor as McIlroy’s high profile off course personal life and relationship with the Women's Tennis Association [WTA] 2011 number 1, Caroline Wozniacki, that has captured the headlines. Indeed, such is the media interest in these two young sports stars that they have joined the celebrity gossip columns along with "Brangelina" – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; "TomKat" – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; or the now defunct "Bennifer" – Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, earning the latest sporting couple the moniker of “Wozzilroy”. 

Not only is the name getting traction through social media, but also their combined earnings, which could catapult them into the top earning couples in world sport, particularly given their current ages, has sports marketing companies cart wheeling with projections of possible life long career earnings. Much of which is also now attracting the old style ink of newspaper columns, celebrity magazines and radio stations with the reality of two high profile sports people trying to live as normal life as is permitted to them possible, lost in the ether. 

If anything the media frenzy should come with a health warning to Caroline and Rory, given that they are not the first celebrity couple in the history of world sport, with stories abounding on both sides of the good and bad divide in the news archives. Even if the main benchmark being quoted on this side of the Atlantic remain David Beckham and Victoria Adams, the future for Wozzilroy will be fraught and they could join the countless sporting couples who failed to make the distance – golfer Adam Scott and tennis star Anna Ivanovic a case in point; as were golfers, Natalie Gulbis and Dustin Johnson. 

In fact more recently Australian golfer Greg Norman settled a £60m divorce with his wife of 25 years, Laura Andrassy, to marry former Wimbledon champion Chris Evert, only to see the union fail after only 15 months together. 

Then again there are happier tales of wedded bliss with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s nine year relationship amongst them with the two very successful tennis players - with 30 grand slam title and two Olympic gold medals between them – seeming to have transcended the mad world of celebrity into the normality of day to day marriage. They are joined by others of course, albeit the high profile casualties along the way seem to garner more attention in the media – who are only to willing to add to the notoriety and speculation. On the plus side pop star Enrique Iglesias and retired tennis super star Anna Kournikova come to mind, as do Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow – to mention a few. 

In a report by Forbes magazine well know clinical psychologist Jim Houran adds an enlightening quote, “powerful people tend to gravitate to other powerful people” a fact supported by the number of couples in the United States that have accumulated financial horsepower as a result of their union. Chief amongst them are Brazilian super model, Gisela Bundchen and NFL quarterback for New England Patriots, Tom Brady, who are listed as the world's best paid celebrity couple earning US$76M in 2010 - about US$31M more than Posh and Becks. 

Ahead of the English couple are Beyonce Knowles and rapper husband, Jay-Z, with a combined income of $72million with the income spilt showing that Beyonce brought in $35m in all last year. Surprisingly perhaps, holding down third place, are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with a more modest $50million with Jolie still one of the most bankable Hollywood stars. 

For McIlroy the play-off win in Shanghai earned him £1.25 million (US $2 million) and helped add interest to sport's latest glamour couple as the prize was much more than the Northern Ireland golfers winnings for the US Open title. Indeed it just adds to the £3.5 million earned from golf so far this year, with the various sponsorship deals estimated to be worth another £6 million per annum. On the other side of the couple, twenty one year old Carline Wozniacki is the second highest-paid female athlete in the world this year with an estimated income from winnings and endorsements of about £8 million. Only the Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova and her fiancĂ© Sasha Vujacic, a basketball player on a $5 million-a-year contract in the US, could rival them for earnings by an athlete couple at this time. 

However, Nigel Currie, of sports agency Brand Rapport, believes the combined of "Wozzilroy" could be worth 50 percent more than they could attract individually. 

"Between them, they cover a greater spectrum," he said. "Suddenly, lifestyle and fashion magazines will be interested in McIlroy because he is Wozniacki's boyfriend, when they would never have shown an interest in a golfer. 

"Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf had a similarly wide attraction but were at the end of their careers when they started going out, while Wozniacki and McIlory are at their best and could be there for another 10 years." 

Like with all these happy tales of money, love and glamour there are endless lists of costly high profile divorces inside and outside sport – which can happen regardless of the fame and celebrity. The tales of those sports stars that have married partners outside the limelight, or the path of fame, show there are also casualties with tennis player Justine Henin a case in point. In 2007 Henin and her husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne announced that after only four years of marriage, they were officially separating. 

In 2004 Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters, tennis' most high-profile couple of the time, split up only months before the Australian and Belgian had been due to get married. The relationship had begun after they met at the Australian Open in 2000 and lasted just over three years. In the 1970’s US tennis superstar and winner of 18 Grand Slam singles championships, Chris Evert, was engaged to men's Wimbledon champion Jimmy Connors, only to see the engagement to end months before the planned wedding in 1974. Five years later Evert married English tennis player, John Lloyd., who then became the golden couple of the era with the UK media, remaining so for many years, until they divorced in 1987. 

For Roger Federer marriage to a former WTA player Mirka Vavrinec has not been a setback, even after Vavrinec retired in 2002 as the Swiss tennis player now holds a record 16 Grand Slam singles titles and is still actively competing eleven years after meeting his wife at the 2000 Olympic Games. The couple have also done so without collecting a moniker along the way, with Federrer earning a cool US$47 million in 2011 alone. Not bad work and all done so very quietly. Bit like a highly valued Swiss watch.

In contrast it seems that the moniker "Wozzilroy" was invented by Rory.  

Maybe he should give Roger a call as there is a long road ahead.