An UNIQLO Surprise
Posted on August 05 2018
People say nothing ever changes, but this past Wimbledon there was a tectonic shift in the way we view the tennis world. Excitedly awaiting the return of the man, the myth, the legend, Roger Federer to step out onto the hallowed turf, dressed in his pristine Niki whites, a strange red square drew the attention of millions around the world. Had Nike dispensed with their trademark swoosh, had Fed’s RF initials been emblazoned in a red square? The answer was no, Roger Federer, Mr Nike himself was sporting a Uniqlo outfit.
Federer, one of the most recognisable sports stars on the planet, first signed with Nike in 1994, and has since established himself as one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Clearly, this represents a massive coup for Uniqlo, and the timing, and manner of the reveal was certainly impressive. Tennis has long been dominated by the duopoly of Nike and Adidas with other brands like Lacoste, Under Armour and H&M briefly making small inroads, most notably, Uniqlo’s sponsorship of Djokovic. But Roger Federer is a different kettle of fish altogether, and the 10 year deal means that Federer will retire in a Uniqlo shirt.
Like any of these deals, money no doubt played a huge part, and ESPN reports that Uniqlo’s contract with Federer is worth $30 million a year, a $20 million a year increase on Federer’s Nike deal. This is a massive investment in someone who at 36 years old is deep into his twilight years. Uniqlo will be extremely lucky to get another three years out of Federer on the tennis court, but Roger Federer is much bigger than what he does on the court, and so Uniqlo will be hoping to capitalise on their association with Federer even after he has hung up his rackets.
Nike in the other hand, will no doubt be disappointed to have lost Federer, but at this point in his career, a 10 year, $300 million contract may not have been in their best interests. They already have Rafael Nadal, the next most recognisable tennis star, and will be concerned with ensuring the next generation of players to reach the top will be wearing Nike clothing.
At first, it was quite a shock to see Federer sporting new clothing, there was a tinge of sadness that such a close relationship had ended. But, each party has moved on, and will no doubt continue upon the successful paths they have so far trodden.
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