Rory McIlroy’s stellar form this year has seen his online popularity surpass three of the biggest global brands who sponsor him, a study has shown.
McIlroy ended an 18-month barren spell by winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth earlier this year and back-to-back major victories at the Open Championship and US PGA Championship took him back to world number one.
All that, coupled with a successful Ryder Cup defence by the European team and a host of individual accolades, have taken his online brand reputation past Nike, Bose and Omega, according to data analytics company Adoreboard.
The tech firm, based at Queen’s University, Belfast, analyses online emotion to determine how brands are rated by the public in an index rating called Adorescore, which varies between minus 100 to 100.
Just over a week ago, with the clock ticking down to this Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards - at which McIlroy is a top contender alongside Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, the 25-year-old achieved an Adorescore of 51.
That put him five points beyond sound system manufacturers Bose and Swiss watchmaker Omega, while Nike was languishing seven points behind the golfer who agreed a multi-million pound deal to endorse its clubs last year.
Results also showed that he had 40 times more mentions in online news than Nike and 60 times more than Bose.
Data scientists at Adoreboard monitored mentions of McIlroy across online news, blogs and social media such as Twitter and Facebook between November 27 and December 3 to get a snapshot of how he compared to the big firms.
But in total they spent six months monitoring McIlroy’s general progress during a year of many peaks and few troughs.
They started in May, just after he cancelled his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, when his popularity had dipped.
Another time when a drop was noted in McIlroy’s online popularity was after he fell out of contention at the Scottish Open in early July.
However, his Open triumph at the Royal Liverpool in Hoylake a week later, followed by the PGA win at Valhalla, soon saw admiration for him sky-rocket.
Dr Fergal Monaghan, Adoreboard’s chief technology officer, said: “Even during times of frustration at the time of the Scottish Open when his Adorescore plummeted, just six days later the dominant emotion expressed is amazement because of his performance at the Open (Championship).
“A well-timed Nike advert also helped put his brand perception back on track.”