Tiger Woods’ ‘unique’ first Nike deal ‘raised the bar’ for entire golf world, his former agent Hughes Norton tells Daily Mail, as he lifts the lid on negotiations with sportswear giant in new tell-all book, ‘Rainmaker’

Hughes Norton was Tiger Woods’ agent when the icon inked his first Nike deal

Norton’s tell-all book, Rainmaker, is released in the United States on March 26


Tiger Woods inked one of the most unique sponsorship deals in sports when he struck the deal that set up a 27-year, $500million partnership with Nike, his former agent Hughes Norton says.


Woods, 48, confirmed in January that his iconic partnership with the sportswear giant had come to an end after 27 years

And it was Norton, the super agent who represented Woods along with a number of the game’s biggest names, including Greg Norman, who was the architect of the most infamous partnership in golf.


In his new tell-all book, ‘Rainmaker: Superagent Hughes Norton and the Money-Grab Explosion of Golf from Tiger to LIV and Beyond’, co-written with former Golf magazine editor George Peper, Norton divulges the behind-the-scene details of striking the deal.

Norton, who first met Woods when he was just 13 and was alongside him for his first-ever major win at The Masters in 1997, reveals in ‘Rainmaker’ that as he began to lay the foundations of the golfer’s multi-million-dollar career he decided to put all of his ‘eggs in two baskets’: Nike and Titleist.

Pitching Woods to Nike’s then-director of sports marketing Steve Miller as a generational talent, Norton hedged his bets and declared that an offer in the region of $50million over five years would be enough to get Woods walking the course with the Swoosh across his cap.


Recalling the negotiations in ‘Rainmaker’, which hit shelves in the United States on March 26, Norton explains that Miller first balked at the figure.


But it clearly wasn’t too much of a deterrent as the Nike chief came back with a compromise any agent would have dreamed of settling for: $40million – $8million a year – over five years.


And the cherry on top? It was all guaranteed before Woods had even stepped on the tee as a professional. So was the $20million deal he struck with Titleist.


Even if he missed every single cut or lost his Tour card, Woods was set for life, before he even hit the age of 21.


Norton tells Mail Sport that it was one of the biggest successes of his two-and-a-half-decade-long career with IMG.


‘It was so unique that somebody who had never hit a golf ball as a professional, before he stepped on the first tee, would be guaranteed $60 million,’ he says.

There was no recourse, there was no reclaiming of any of those revenues by Nike or Titleist. He was set up. That’s so unusual, and the amounts were so unusual that, you don’t mean to pat yourself on the back and I really always try not to do so, but you think, “Wow, this is a dream come true. I’m gonna have this generational talent for the next 10 years, maybe a little longer.” You’re so looking forward to it.’

Norton highlights in ‘Rainmaker’ that the figures were four times what then World No. 1 Norman was making on golf clubs and balls, and double what the Australian was pocketing on shoes and clothes.

‘That’s not bad, right?’ was the young Woods’ response, Norton writes.

It not only toppled Norman’s earnings at the time but also paved the way for Woods’s generational wealth.

Despite Norton being fired by an ’emotionless’ Woods just two years into those contracts, the golfing icon is estimated to have gone on to earn around $500m in the 27 years he spent as a face of the brand he joined on turning professional aged 20 until parting ways at the beginning of this year and launching his own ‘Sun Day Red’ clothing line.

But it wasn’t just Woods’s career that the pioneering partnership impacted. Hughes insists the value of golfers everywhere went up as a consequence, even if they would never hit the dizzying heights of Woods.

‘Five minutes after it came out, every other management agency in golf said to themselves, “We’ve been underpricing our guys for too many years.” It set the bar,’ Norton says.

‘Not that anyone else was going to get the numbers that Tiger did because of all that led up to it in his fabulous amateur career. But it raised the bar for sure.

Was Hughes Norton an agent of change that single handedly added extra zeros to the end of everybody’s paycheck and golf? No. But it certainly paved the way for a lot of larger endorsement deals as the stars came along.’

And it almost didn’t happen. Not if Phil Knight got his way.

In ‘Rainmaker’ Norton claims that Knight, former Nike CEO, tried to cut IMG out of the deal at the final hour, going behind their back and straight to Woods’ father, Earl.

But Norton insists Earl showed unwavering loyalty, refusing Knight’s advances.

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