Thursday 26 April 2018

Clarke's worldwide appeal could open floodgates to €50m windfall

Karl MacGinty

DARREN CLARKE is likely to land a €50m jackpot on the back of his stunning Major breakthrough at Royal St George's.

The €999,540 winner's cheque Clarke collected in Sandwich on Sunday, and even the massive £2m bonus his victory brought from clothing sponsor Dunlop, will be dwarfed by the Irish star's potential earnings worldwide over the next five years.

Clarke himself insisted the pride and prestige of winning the Claret Jug is "beyond price", but his back-room team at International Sports Management are to launch an all-out effort to maximise the charismatic Irish star's potential earnings.

Explaining that Clarke and his stablemate Rory McIlroy, the US Open champion, are "different people to appeal to different markets", ISM chief Chubby Chandler said: "Darren's already a brand and is massively popular all over the world, so I think my job for him is going to be very easy."

For a start, Clarke's sponsorship portfolio shrank as he slid out of world golf's upper echelon in recent years, leaving Chandler with a clear field in which to work.

Chandler believes he can be far more aggressive in marketing 21-year Tour veteran Clarke than McIlroy, who at 22, must be protected from burnout.

"We are able to say more times yes to (proposals for) Darren than we will be to Rory," he explained, adding with a chuckle: "We've got to look after Rory -- he's so young you could burn him out, whereas Darren is burned out a few times already."

The relationship between Chandler and Clarke extends way beyond business. In the 21 years since the Ulsterman became his first client in 1990, Chandler, a former Tour player himself, credits Clarke with "shaping our company".

"He mentors so many kids of ours. For example, Darren went out to Malaysia with Chris Wood 15 months ago," Chandler said.

"It was the first time Chris had been on a promotional fee there so he had to go to a dinner on the Tuesday. When he came down in jeans and a shirt and hadn't shaved, Darren sent him back up and said, 'That's not how ISM does that, go and have a shave'."

While Clarke has banked €24m in prize money around the world in 21 years as a professional, he has grossed more than double that amount in endorsements, sponsorships and other promotional deals. And as a Major champion, his off-course earnings should go through the roof.

It's all down to the Irishman's appeal internationally, as Chandler explains: "Darren is huge in Japan and South Africa. Funnily enough, that's partly because because he drinks and smokes. About seven or eight years ago someone told me that makes him a hero of Japanese middle-aged men.

"In South Africa, he's hugely popular because he has always travelled and he has always done his job.

"He's going to be a great Open champion. The phone will never stop ringing but it will be a different sort of call than Rory gets, a different set of sponsors. The great thing about Darren is that he doesn't have quite as many logos on him as anyone else."

Clarke is unlikely to take out full membership of the US PGA Tour.

"I can't see him joining them and playing 15 tournaments," Chandler said. "What he'll probably do is enjoy playing his 10 and 11 and 12 that he's allowed.

"He'll feel he is back to where he should be in the game. For the past two years, he's really missed playing on the same schedule as Rory, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and those sort of people."

With a free pass into the Open until he's 60, a five-year exemption for the other three Majors and, as a member of the world's elite top 50, access to the World Golf Championships, Clarke is expected to harness the confidence from his win at Sandwich and make a significant impact on the world game.

Irish Independent

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