Golfer Rory McIlroy Now as Appealing as Chelsea Handler, Andy Samberg, Says Celebrity Index

Rory McIlroy - U.S. Open Congressional Country Club - 2011
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The young pro outperforms Tiger Woods in all categories but awareness on The Marketing Arm's Davie Brown Index, with his endorsement score in the same range as Tina Fey, Robert DeNiro and Steven Spielberg.

NEW YORK - His recent U.S. Open victory has markedly boosted golfer Rory McIlroy's profile and appeal to consumers and marketers, according to latest data from The Marketing Arm's Celebrity Davie Brown Index.
The index, a weighted average using awareness and seven other attributes, is used by brand marketers and ad agencies to determine a celebrity's ability to influence brand affinity and purchase intent.

Some experts have predicted that the 22-year-old Irish golf pro could rival Tiger Woods' $1 billion endorsement career.

McIlroy's overall DBI score of 55.73 makes him the third highest-ranked golfer behind Phil Mickelson (68.86) and Woods (79.85) and ahead of Sergio Garcia (46.93).

But McIlroy's scores are up across the board in the firm's latest collection of data, compared to a previous reading in March. And importantly, he outperforms Woods in all categories but awareness - where Woods has a huge lead - and is already a close second to Mickelson in such categories as appeal, influence and trendsetter.

To compile the DBI data, the company presents 1,000 respondents from a national sample with the name and face of a celebrity and asks if they are aware of the individual. If aware of the celebrity, respondents get asked additional questions about the person and his or her attributes. The DBI database includes more than 2,800 celebrities.

McIlroy's awareness score has skyrocketed from 17.39 in March to 48.04 now. That means he is now known by nearly 50 percent of U.S. consumers, which is in the same range as Viggo Mortensen, Kendra Wilkinson, Dirk Nowitzki, Elvis Costello and Brooke Burke.

McIlroy's best score comes in the endorsement attribute where he now ranks 145th of the more than 2,800 celebrities that the DBI tracks, putting him in good company. The score is on par with celebrities like Keira Knightley, Eva Longoria, Tina Fey, Robert DeNiro, Steven Spielberg and Arnold Palmer, the first golf star of the TV age. In previous data compiled in March, McIlroy ranked only 1,297th.

McIlroy's appeal score rose as well causing him to jump from the 1,370th to the 558th spot. He is now in the same range as Chelsea Handler, Andy Samberg, Steve Jobs, Rainn Wilson, Dolly Parton and Joel McHale.

Consumers also find McIlroy aspirational. In that attribute, he ranks at number 225, up from 1,399 in March. That has brought him into the same range as Martin Scorsese, Beyonce Knowles, Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Firth, Halle Berry and Natalie Portman.

And his trendsetter score puts him at number 342, up from 1,438, pushing him into the same neighborhood as Christian Bale, Jessica Alba, Ben Stiller, Mark Wahlberg, Dwyane Wade and Samberg.

"What's different about Rory today is that he's a winner. A major championship winner. A record-breaking major championship winner," said Matt Delzell, a director in The Marketing Arm's celebrity endorsement group. "He’s confident without being cocky, something that's rare among young, superstar athletes. Also, from what's portrayed, he’s very close with his family. He seems to win and lose with class and poise."

Maybe most important, he has an appealing story, and one that everyone loves, he said. After getting knocked down at the Masters, he picked himself up and succeeded at the U.S. Open. "From a branding perspective, it's not all about winning all of the time - it’s about winning at the right time and it’s about having a compelling story," Delzell said.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods has seen his DBI scores decline since news about his infidelity. In 2009, his scores were among the best in the DBI, including a number nine ranking in the aspiration category, the 11th spot in the endorsement metric and the number 96 ranking in terms of appeal. His scores in those areas have fallen from 77.18, 77.67 and 82.33, respectively, to 37.97 (rank 2,763), 52.34 (rank 2,596) and 56.46 (rank2,733), respectively.


Twitter: @georgszalai