Ask Rory McIlroy: Brand You is most valuable brand in world

17 July 2024, Wednesday

My 10-year-old son is desperate to follow in the footsteps of South Africa’s Big Easy, Ernie Els, as no doubt many other youngsters are. So he pays close attention to tips from golfing stars like Rory McIlroy. For the past two weeks, Nick’s mantra on the golf course has been “process” and “spot” after McIlroy revealed in a televised news conference that this was his secret for a recent win. He concentrates on the “process” when he drives and focuses on the “spot” when he putts. That’s catchy advice any golfer can remember to avoid being distracted by bad shots, and it seems to work. McIlroy isn’t just a genius with a golf club, though. Brand McIlroy is becoming very valuable, as South African human brand specialist Rob Opie explains here. Rob reminds us that, even if we don’t have dreams of winning the Masters, we can draw inspiration from McIlroy in our career and life planning. – JC

By Rob Opie*


What is the most valuable brand in the world? If you answered Apple, you would be wrong. That’s because every Apple device is easily replaceable. However you are not! You are irreplaceable. And sometimes we tend to forget this. And even the best of the best can get it all right, all wrong, and all right again.

Let’s take a recent example that is trending, namely Rory McIlroy. World Number One to personal slump to World Number One.

To his credit he did it all in one year. Tiger Woods took 6 years – three to unravel his personal brand from 2006 to 2009, and then three more to  rebuild and refine his personal brand  from 2009 to 2013, regaining the Number One ranking in 2013.

Even  more spectacular was the rise and fall of a man who deservedly earned the nick name of ‘the comeback kid’, Andre Agassi. His slump from Number One to number 143, and then  his climb back, was a lesson in ‘Brand You’ – personal branding. Luckily for him he had a chance meeting with Nelson Mandela in 2007, who shared with him the following wise words that he accredits for what helped him to bounce back from adversity: 

‘Andre, be careful with your decisions, Andre, be careful with your words, Andre, be careful with your relationships. Andre, we must all live our lives carefully.’

– Inspiring words of mentorship spoken to André Agassi by Nelson Mandela in 1997

So, what can we learn from these great champions who get it humanly right and humanly wrong?

Well, first and foremost: self-branding is vital in life, as it serves as one’s internal compass for life. ‘Brand you’ has two components: namely one’s outer branding component, which can be called one’s image, and one’s inner branding component, which can be referred to as one’s happiness. Guess which one is more important, if one takes into consideration the Champion’s equation of life?

Hard work + Happiness = Human Great

Rory took a year off to focus on his outer image. Caroline Wozniacki helped him. Andre Agassi followed the same route with Brooke Shields. Tiger did it his own way. But, an over-emphasis on one’s outer image can come with dire consequences. It takes one’s eye off the ball. It takes one’s focus off one’s ‘ONE THING’ in life. In Rory’s case, his golfing genius.

So, if inner branding is all important, what does it look like? What should we all know? Why is Rory suddenly back at Number One? Why is he now striding out to win more and more, and by big margins.  Just, as is the case in marketing, inner branding has its own four Ps (4Ps).

At the very top sits Prosperity, which is what we all seek, namely health and happiness. Sadly Tiger has still not found it, but Rory’s has certainly done it. He just looks happy in his own skin. One can see it in his stride and in his swing.

Prosperity has three components that make up one’s inner branded happiness, namelyPurpose, Priority and Productivity. You find these three Ps inside the game plans of all the great champions.

Take some time out to view Rory’s updated official website. It sums it all up:

‘I am a son, I am an athlete, I am a fan, I am a golfer, I am Rory’

Rory McIlroy at 25, is suddenly clear about his ‘one thing’ in life, and how he purposefully impacts on this universe  –  with an understanding of how he serves to inspire, educate and entertain the world with his golfing genius.

His priorities are back. And the hard work he puts in is driving up his productivity to the next level. Other golfers are playing catch up again, like in the Tiger era.

Summed up: his focus is back and it’s giving him supreme faith, confidence and belief to take out  ‘his Number One Driver’ where ever he now wishes. And on American courses it certainly makes all the difference. One year on and Rory McIlroy has learnt that a ‘to stop list ‘is far more valuable than a ‘to do’ list.

As soon as he came to this realisation himself, not much could stop his stride and his swing! With a game plan now made of the right stuff, many more major victories are in his sights.


Hard work + Happiness = Human Great