Roger Federer and Nike have been joined at the hip since the Swiss tennis ace turned pro in 1998. The partnership has been lucrative for both sides, with Nike using Federer to front its tennis business while he racked up a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Federer earned in the neighborhood of $150 million from the $35 billion-in-revenue sports giant over the past two decades.
But Federer’s Nike deal expired in March, and the tennis free agent just signed a blockbuster 10-year apparel deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo . Federer stepped out on Wimbledon’s center court Monday donning Uniqlo apparel for the first time as a pro.
Uniqlo confirmed the deal via social media shortly after Federer’s opening round match started.
— UNIQLO UK (@UNIQLO_UK) July 2, 2018
In a statement, Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo’s founder and chairman, said: “Mr. Federer is one of the greatest champions in history — my respect for him goes beyond sport. Our partnership will be about innovation on and off court. We share a goal of making positive change in the world, and I hope together we can bring the highest quality of life to the greatest number of people. Uniqlo will help Mr. Federer continue taking tennis to new places while exploring innovations in a number of areas including technology and design with him.”
Federer still wore Nike sneakers on Monday, as Uniqlo does not make tennis footwear. Nike will also continue to own the RF logo that Federer has displayed on his apparel in recent years. Federer confirmed in his post-match press conference that he does not currently have a deal with Nike for footwear.
The Uniqlo deal is potentially worth as much as $300 million, according to ESPN and Italian tennis journalist Vincenzo Martucci of Sports Senators. Federer’s longtime agent, Tony Godsick, did not return a request for comment.
Federer was thought to be near the end of his tennis career when a knee injury sidelined him the final six months of 2016. He turned 35 in August 2016, an age by which most tennis players have long been put out to pasture. But Federer returned to the top of the sport with three more Grand Slam titles and a brief hold on the No. 1 world ranking, becoming the oldest by more than three years to reach the ATP top ranking.
Federer has won $116 million in prize money in his career, but the total is dwarfed by his off-court earnings from appearances and endorsements. Mercedes-Benz and Lindt renewed their deals with Federer at the end of 2017. He added pasta brand Barilla as a sponsor last year in a deal worth as much as $40 million.
Many of Federer’s sponsor relationships run a decade-plus. His other partners include Wilson, Credit Suisse, Rolex, Jura, Moet & Chandon, Sunrise and NetJets.
Federer ranked seventh in Forbes recent look at the world’s highest-paid athletes. His $77.2 million in earnings included $65 million from endorsements and hefty appearance fees, as well as $12.2 million in prize money.
LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only athletes on the planet with comparable endorsement incomes to Federer over the last 12 months, but the Uniqlo deal separates Federer from his fellow global sports icons. His endorsement earnings could reach $70 million over the next 12 months, with appearance fees adding even more. The only two athletes to ever reach that annual high-water mark from corporate partners are Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
Federer is looking for his ninth Wimbledon title at the All England Club, but he won the money game before the tournament even started.
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