When the defending champion Roger Federer stepped on the Center Court at Wimbledon for his first round match on Monday, many spectators had to look twice before realizing it was indeed the 36-year-old Swiss stepping onto the court. It wasn’t a new haircut or a beard that threw them off, but Federer’s unfamiliar outfit: for the first time in his professional career, the Swiss maestro wasn’t dressed in Nike. Instead Federer wore gear made by the Japanese brand Uniqlo.
To insiders the switch to Uniqlo didn’t come as a total surprise, because it was well-known that Federer’s Nike contract had expired in March. However, he still wore his Nike gear in the Wimbledon warm-up tournaments of Halle and Stuttgart as well as in training in London, so many had assumed that a deal had been reached after all. Apparently it hasn’t and Uniqlo decided to reveal its surprise coup
at Tennis’ biggest stage: Wimbledon.
According to industry chatter, the 10-year Uniqlo deal is worth $30 million a year to Federer, which is probably unprecedented for an athlete at Federer’s age and stage in his career. However, thanks to his sustained success and his flawless demeanor off and (mostly) on the tennis court, Federer is almost universally beloved, which is probably why Uniqlo (and many other companies) decided to sign him regardless of his age. As the following chart illustrates, no other athlete made more money with endorsement deals over the past year than Federer did. According to Forbes
, his partnerships with companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Moet & Chandon, Jura, Wilson and others netted him $65 million in the 12 months ending June 1, 2018, dwarfing his prize money earnings of $12.2 million over the same period.