And if Roger Federer does win his ninth Wimbledon trophy, he’ll do so clad in Uniqlo
Photo from Instagram
Roger Federer has just ended his decades-long apparel deal with Nike.
Walking out onto Centre Court on Monday morning to defend his Wimbledon title, the 36-year old Swiss tennis great caused a bit of a stir among discerning crowds, outfitted as he was in a jacket, shirt, headband, and socks from Japanese brand Uniqlo. He was still, however, wearing Nike shoes—although without a formal deal. Here are four takeaways from the new apparel partnership deal, which was reportedly worth more than $300 million.
1. Federer: “It’s been a long time coming”
Perhaps the question that is on everyone’s minds now is—why the sudden deal abandonment? Since 1994, Federer has donned Nike apparel from head-to-toe. Needless to say, the image of the Swiss veteran clinching multiple Wimbledon trophies throughout his career has long been embedded in the minds of both fans and critics alike. And now, if he does win his ninth trophy, he’ll do so clad in Uniqlo.
To be fair, though, even if the apparel shift came as a surprise to a lot of people, the Uniqlo deal has been rumored for months, partly brought on by the fact that Federer’s contract with Nike expired back in March. His less-than-subtle remarks at the Stuttgart Open about these rumors only served to heighten suspicions.
He has since released a statement to address the now-confirmed rumors. “I am deeply committed to tennis and to winning championships, but like Uniqlo, I also have great love for life, culture, and humanity. We share a strong passion to have a positive impact on the world around us and look forward to combining our creative endeavors.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Federer even added that the partnership “had been a long time coming.”
2. “It’s Nike’s loss and Uniqlo’s gain”
Uniqlo’s current roster of athletic ambassadors includes Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori and Australian golfer Adam Scott. The addition of Federer to this relatively modest lineup is clearly a boost to Uniqlo’s nascent clout in sportswear. Some tennis fans have even gone as far as insisting that this new deal is “Nike’s loss and Uniqlo’s gain,” which, by extension emphasizes the gap between the two brands’ respective reputations in sportswear.
The Japanese brand, which is not in the business of athletic footwear (hence Federer’s Nikes in Monday’s match), has since confirmed the partnership on Twitter:
Meanwhile, Nike has also released an official statement to address the matter, expressing that their long-running partnership with Federer is over for good:
“We do not comment on athlete contracts. However, we are thankful and proud to have been a part of Roger’s incredible journey and wish him the best in the future,” said a Nike spokesperson.
It’s hard to make a sound speculation as to what all this means for Nike. They have, after all, ended arguably one of the most iconic apparel partnerships in sports. There have been, however, some theories floating around among the tennis community—one of which centers on the assumption that Federer will be retiring in a few years. And why would Nike want to keep working with a retired athlete? Some fans point out.
Uniqlo, on the other hand, is more of a “lifestyle brand,” and this partnership with Federer is expected to drive profit to the brand and even help it tap into the European market—all despite the Swiss’ imminent retirement.
3. $300 million, 10 years
As reported by ESPN writer Darren Rovell, sources say the deal is worth more than $300 million guaranteed over 10 years. The contract even includes an unprecedented clause stating that Federer will collect the money even if he doesn’t play. We don’t need to point out how lucrative the number is but to gain a deeper sense of just how over the top it is, it’s worth pointing out that Federer’s career on-court earnings are $116.6 million—just slightly more than half of what he’ll be collecting from Uniqlo.
Rovell further reports that the deal could even be more lucrative for Federer, as it allows his team to sell some patches on his shirt. Nike did not allow him to do so, and instead offered to expand Federer’s line through his “RF” logo, which it has owned since 2010. This has led some people to make the assumption that this offer from Nike just couldn’t match Uniqlo’s.
4. Ties with Nike aren’t completely broken
Federer and his team are still in the process of obtaining the “RF” trademark from Nike. “Yeah, so the RF logo is with Nike at the moment, but it will come to me at some point,” Federer said in his Monday victory against Dusan Lajovic. “I hope rather sooner than later, that Nike can be nice and helpful in the process to bring it over to me. It’s also something that was very important for me, for the fans really.”
The pair of Nikes he wore in his first round match featured the “RF” logo, and it’s unclear at this point whether he’ll continue doing so. The world no. 2 has made it clear, however, that his ties with the US company have not been completely severed:
“I don’t have a shoe deal. I’m looking forward to see what shoes I will be wearing in the near future. For now, I will be wearing Nike. They have shown interest to have a shoe deal with me as well. Ties are not broken there. I have deep roots with Nike.”