Justin Rose’s new endorsement contract with Japanese luxury equipment brand Honma, hinted at almost two months ago, became official today.
Honma announced the deal with the No. 2-ranked player in the world and reigning FedEx Cup champion in a press release. The announcement referenced “a multi-year partnership in which Justin Rose would lead Honma’s worldwide tour presence. The Board sees this as an important milestone in Honma’s efforts in global professional golf.”
Those efforts are being led by Mark King, the former CEO at TaylorMade, the company with whom Rose had an endorsement contract for his entire 20-year professional career up to this point. In August, King told Golf Digest he is serving as a consultant to Honma, although others familiar with the company believe King is playing a more significant role in helping the Japanese brand establish a greater presence in Europe, North America and the U.S. in particular. Signing the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist who plays most of his golf in the States and led Europe's victorious 2018 Ryder Cup team would clearly be a step in that direction.
Company spokesman John Kawaja indicated that Rose is expected to play a Honma driver, forged irons and wedges. Rose, 38, is scheduled to start his year at the Desert Classic in Palm Springs, Jan. 17-20. Kawaja said that although the set makeup is not yet confirmed, Rose is under contract to play 10 Honma clubs. He said those clubs are likely to feature versions of models introduced late in 2018 in Japan. That group is expected to include the T//World TW747 driver; a prototype version of the forged cavity back T//World TW747 V in the 4- through 6-iron; and a prototype T//World 747 “Justin Rose” forged muscleback iron in the 7-iron through 9-iron. Rose also is expected to play custom prototype versions of the T//World TW forged wedges (47, 56 and 60 degrees).
The T//World TW747 driver that debuted in Asia late last year reportedly features “the world’s lightest” carbon crown, tungsten in the sole for a low center of gravity and a unique adjustable hosel system that changes loft, lie and face angle while maintaining the same position for the spine of the shaft.
Rose, who will carry a Honma bag and have the Honma logo on both sides of his hat, also will be consulted on future Honma product development.
Honma, the 60-year-old company famous for its gold-plated clubs (including one given to President Trump by Japanese president Shinzo Abe in 2017), artisan-style craftsmanship and five-figure price tags, has redoubled its efforts to become a major player in the golf business both globally and specifically in North America after having been purchased by Chinese businessman Liu Jianguo.
The signing of Rose is easily Honma’s most significant player endorsement contract ever. Previously, its top-ranked male endorsee was Hideto Tanihara, ranked 174th in the world and a 14-time winner in Japan. Honma also has endorsement contracts with former No. 1-ranked women So Yeon Ryu and Shan-Shan Feng.
There are rumors that Honma is working on signing at least one other non-Asian player based on the U.S. tour.
Rose was quoted in Honma’s announcement as being “extremely excited to be joining Honma. Coming off one of my best years professionally, I wanted to make it a point to get better. I believe Honma equipment and the legendary Honma craftsmanship can help make me better.”
Honma’s chairman Liu said that Rose aligns with the "company’s values," and “with Justin’s local and international influence in the sport and his media coverage and social media following, the partnership will create an immediate and positive uplift of Honma’s brand image and product awareness in mature markets such as North America and Europe which will in turn accelerate the implementation of Honma’s growth strategies in these markets.”
Honma’s stock price on the Hong Kong stock exchange is up nearly 30 percent since the first reports of Rose’s rumored signing began appearing two months ago.
Honma is planning to unveil its latest line of equipment to the North American market later this month.