Roger Federer is a tennis legend and his on-court rivalry with Rafael Nadal has made watching tennis on television supremely exciting! He is the most popular tennis player the world has ever seen and this great fame has brought large endorsement opportunities.
What are endorsements? They are a form of advertising, usually made by famous people like sports or TV personalities, who hold a certain level of trust and respect with the public. They lend their names to a product or brand they are ‘endorsing’ (saying it’s totally awesome!) in exchange for a sum of money. If Roger Federer uses a particular brand of gear, then that must be the brand to have, right?!
Federer and Nike: Federer endorsed Nike for 24 years. In exchange, he was paid $7.5 million annually. In 2010, Nike created a personalised logo “RF”, which became world famous and earned both Nike and Federer a lot of money. Nike owns the logo.
As a brand Nike made sense for Federer’s image when he was an upcoming star and in his prime.
Federer and Uniqlo: A few weeks ago, Federer left sports giant Nike, and cut a deal with a Japanese clothing brand called Uniqlo. They are not as well known for their sportswear. They will pay him $30 million annually for the next ten years — amounting to $300 million. Woah! That’s a lot of money! This is more than triple what he earned with Nike. The high price tag has definitely grabbed the world’s attention and spurred some debate.
OK let’s put this in perspective: How much does Federer make by playing tennis? CNBC reports that he has made $118 million in prize money in his career. They also say that he made $58 million in 2016 off-court – in appearances at events, and endorsements, and such. That’s a lot of money that is made off-court, and that’s the strength of the brand that he has built!
Why did he switch? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Federer said: “What really resonated with me when we were speaking to Uniqlo was that they respected me not just as an athlete but also as a person with interests and passions beyond the sport. I have to eventually think about life after tennis and Uniqlo was a great match for that.”
So what’s the debate? For one, Uniqlo is not known as a sports brand, and two, it’s a pretty hefty sum to pay for a sports personality who is fairly close to retirement. Federer is still winning grand slams and made quite the come back after his back injury last year, when he beat Nadal at the 2017 Australian Open. It was truly a remarkable achievement and that too at the age of 36, as the average age of retirement in tennis is 30. However he has now lost Wimbledon and the US Open. As much as it breaks our hearts to say this, he is aging, and thus the debate.
What’s the value of a brand? Well, it’s what we perceive it to be. Federer stands for reliability, perfection, dedication, good humour, effortless talent, determination, and he is just so very likeable! Let’s see what he is able to do for Uniqlo.
Ownership: Nike however, still owns the rights to the “RF” logo, which Federer hopes he can get back by working out a deal with them. There has been no comment from Nike about the matter. Federer made his Uniqlo debut at Wimbledon 2018 in July. What did he wear? Uniqlo clothing, however since the Japanese brand does not make shoes, he wore his personalized Nike shoes with the “RF” brand. How will they work it out? We will just have to wait and see.
Written by Tanika Thacker and Sunaina Murthy. Tanika is a writer by day and a foodie by night. She lives in San Francisco and nothing makes her happier than ice-cream on a cold, rainy afternoon. You can follow her meanderings on @tanikathacker and @boozefoodlatitude