Commentary

Japan's Uniqlo Snatches Roger Federer From Nike With $300M Deal

After 21 years of repping Nike, 36-year-old Roger Federer walked onto the court to defend his men’s title at Wimbledon yesterday shod nearly entirely in Uniqlo apparel —  although the athletic shoes he strode in on were still Nikes, and Nike is, at least for now, holding onto the RF logo that adorns many an adoring fan’s hat.

“Sources say the deal is worth more than $300 million guaranteed over 10 years, and has an unprecedented clause that says that Federer will collect the money even if he doesn't play. To put [this] deal in perspective, his career on-court earnings are $116.6 million,” reports Darren Rovell for ESPN. “Sources say the deal could be even more lucrative for Federer, as it includes the right for his team to sell some patches on his shirt. Nike did not allow him to do so.”

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Uniqlo, which is owned by Fast Retailing Co. of Japan, has expanded rapidly around the globe by focusing on insulated basics and wardrobe staples. Previously, Uniqlo outfitted former No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic. He is now with Lacoste,” Tom Perrotta and Sara Germano report for TheWall Street Journal

“It had been reported last month that Federer would be making the landmark decision to leave Nike and join Uniqlo, but [he] was reluctant to discuss the deal,” reports Uche Amako for Express.

“And having worn Nike clothing in the build-up tournaments before Wimbledon and during practice at SW19 last week, it was expected that Federer would wear the American sportswear brand. But to the surprise of many, Federer walked out for his match with Dusan Lajovic in a Uniqlo jacket, headband, shirt and socks,” Amako continues.

“It’s not yet clear if Federer is completely finished with Nike. The Swiss wore personalized shoes manufactured by the American clothing giants in his first match at the All England Club and insisted Nike are still in the running to strike a deal over his footwear,” reports George Bellshaw for Metro. “‘I don’t have a shoe deal,’ [Federer] added. ‘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.’”

Good thing, because Uniqlo doesn’t make tennis shoes.  

“Uniqlo is honoured to welcome Roger Federer as our new Global Brand Ambassador!,” the brand’s U.K. arm tweeted

“When can we buy the new @rogerfederer gear?? We need them asap!! Get to work pls..Also update the website with his stuff..Thanks , TAKE MY MONEY!!” tweeted one fan, in response.

“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,” Uniqlo founder and chairman Tadashi Yanai stated in a release announcing the partnership.

“In a statement, a spokesperson for Nike said they ‘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,'” according to a BBC report that points out that Nike retains ownership of Federer's monogrammed RF line.

But “while the swoosh may be gone for good, Federer wants to reclaim his initials,” Reuters’ Andrew Boyer writes for CBS’s MoneyWatch. “Yeah, so the RF logo is with Nike at the moment, but it will come to me at some point. I hope rather sooner than later, that Nike can be nice and helpful in the process to bring it over to me,” Federer said at the postgame press conference. “They are my initials. They are mine. The good thing is it’s not theirs forever. In a short period of time, it will come to me.”

In case you’re wondering how Federer fared in his opening round match against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, he won 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes on center court at the All England Club. 

The defending champion “never faced a break point and showed off the full repertoire of shots that has made him the most successful male player at Wimbledon,” the AP’s Matthias Karen writes for Medicine Hat News. “The only things unfamiliar about Federer were his clothes.”

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