In 2018, Roger Federer had to make one of the toughest business decisions of his career. Failing to renew his deal with Nike, the brand of his life, and signing for Japanese giant Uniqlo, which secured his future beyond withdrawal with a ten-year, 300 million deal.

The Swiss signed his signature in the summer of 2019 in a deal that would ensure him earning €30m per season until he turns 46. A proposition that Nike, which was already sponsoring the Swiss offspring when it won the Wimbledon tournament in 1998, could not match and which caused one of the biggest commercial upheavals in the history of tennis.

In a sport where sponsorship changes in clothing are common, the easiest case to identify is that of Novak Djokovic, who over the years has gone through Adidas, Sergio Tacchini, Lacoste and Uniqlo himself, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer remained loyal to Nike. throughout their career, until that of Basel, about to turn 37, turned to the Japanese invoice.

Uniqlo’s bet was strong. His biggest investments in the racquet world until then had been Djokovic, from 2012 to 2017, and Kei Nishikori, the country’s great tennis idol until Naomi Osaka’s explosion. Uniqlo bet on a man who had just had his best season for a decade in 2017, with seven titles, including Australia and Wimbledon, and who in January 2018 had won his twentieth Grand Slam in Melbourne.

The age of Federer, then the oldest number one in history, was a factor, but there was no doubting his longevity. The bet was sure, for the leaders of Uniqlo.

Federer debuted his new kit at Wimbledon 2018, a tournament in which he was defending his title and in which he was defeated in the quarter-finals. The idyll did not start well in sport, nor in business. Federer had to stick with Nike as a shoe sponsor, as Uniqlo still didn’t make competition shoes, and he was also left without the famous RG logo.

Getting Uniqlo sneakers was a matter of time, although it took several months, but the logo issue remained in limbo, with the shadow that legal proceedings prevented the Basel genius from being seen with his distinctive sign in the last tournaments of his career.

It wasn’t until December 2020 that Federer confirmed he was bringing the logo back, but only for use on caps. It was not until June 2022, four years later, that he recovered it to also use it in sportswear. At Wimbledon 2021, his last Grand Slam, Federer was unable to use the logo on court.

SPORTING SUCCESS?

Federer has won his 20 Grand Slams wearing Nike clothes. His 310 weeks as number one, including 237 consecutive weeks, were under Nike’s mantle. Of the 103 titles he won during his career, 98 were won with Nike. Olympic medals dropped with Nike clothing in the background.

Since that Wimbledon 2018 in which the change happened, Federer has only won five other trophies, Basel 2018 and 2019, Dubai 2019, Miami 2019 and Halle 2019. His top Grand Slam was the Wimbledon 2019 final, where he had two championship points, and the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2019 and Australia 2020.

In 2018 and 2019 he kept up the competitive pace, with 30 and 63 games carrying Uniqlo respectively, but in 2020 the downturn came. The pandemic slowly ate Federer’s last minutes of tennis on his legs, as three knee surgeries bogged down a potential comeback. From January 2020 to today, Federer has again carried his sponsor in only thirteen matches.

Yes, he released different clothing lines and was seen with a greater degree of involvement when making decisions in the design of his shirts and shoes, but Federer’s degree of exposure, confined for months and months in Switzerland, does not. has been the same as Nadal, Djokovic or Alcaraz, competing most weeks of the year.

It was a risk that Uniqlo faced and that they seemed to accept, by hiring a 36-year-old tennis player for ten years. The Japanese sang the “Towards retirement and beyond”.

And it is that Roger Federer does not need to play to be a good investment. Without having played a match for more than a year, since Wimbledon 2021, he again led the list of the highest paid tennis players with 90,229,050 euros before taxes.

In addition to Uniqlo, Rolex, a watchmaking house which promotes its strategy of sophistication, elegance and luxury and which is very present in the world of tennis, has sought Federer’s image to promote these values. Eight million more per year for the Swiss piggy bank.

Another luxury brand, a pattern that repeats itself in its agreements, such as Mercedes Benz, has also reached an agreement with Roger at the rate of 5 million euros per year until 2027. Moreover, whoever will be a former player tennis after the Laver Cup will not have to worry for the duration of the agreement to renew its car, since the German company, within the framework of the agreement, will renew it every six months.

Moreover, according to Forbes data, Federer lends his image to the bank Credit Suisse in exchange for 2 million dollars; the Barilla brand of pasta and Moët & Chandon champagne for 8; the Lindt chocolate factory for 4 people; the airline NetJets for 6; the telecommunications company Sunrise for 7… and its lifetime contract with Wilson rackets. These are some of the agreements that are still in force in the lives of the Swiss.

The result, after scoring 1,090 million in his 24-year career. 130.5 million thanks to his successes in tennis and the rest of his off-court image. The latter will end after the Laver Cup, which will be played in London from the 23rd to the 25th of this month, after a record to date of 103 titles -20 Grand Slams-, with 1,251 matches won and 275 lost.

Manuel Sanchez Gomez

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