Roger Federer: Letting Swiss star leave Nike for Uniqlo was an 'atrocity,' says former Nike tennis director

Roger Federer: Letting Swiss star leave Nike for Uniqlo was an 'atrocity,' says former Nike tennis director

Updated: 1 month, 16 days, 7 hours, 26 minutes, 48 seconds ago


When Roger Federer made the decision to quit his job Tennis Racket was 41 years old last year, making him one of the most influential players to ever play the game.

Federer was dominant on the court, winning 20 grand slam singles titles between 2003 and 2018 and spending a total of 310 weeks at the top of the men’s rankings during the course of his career.

Away The court will be the Swiss Star was highly marketable, and he acquired a lucrative sponsorship portfolio which made him one the most-highly-paid athletes worldwide. Even last year, when he didn’t play a single ATP Tour He was Estimate By Forbes To have earned pre-tax gross earnings in excess of $90.7 million

Federer’s marketability, specifically his long-standing sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Nike, is one aspect of the tennis star’s life and career explored in a new book, “The Roger Federer Effect.”

“Writing the book, we realized how enormous the impact Federer had, not just inside tennis, but outside it, too,” Simon Cambers, the book’s co-author, told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies last month.

In Below is an extract “The Roger Federer Effect,” Mike NakajimaThe former director of tennis at NikeExplains what made Federer And Nike It’s a match made in heaven, it seems. Nike Could have done. Federer It did exactly what it was supposed to do Michael Jordan.

The World tennis’ most prominent players rent nearby houses The All England Club during Wimbledon Meetings to host and welcome athletes.

“There, athletes have a safe haven,” Mike Nakajima, tennis director at Nike For 29 years. “They can come and hang around and nobody asks for pictures.”

Roger Federer It was very relaxing in the hotel Nike When he was young, he would often pop in to his parents’ house and make himself a sandwich with cheese and ham. Wimbledon Television. In 2016 was, as luck would have it. Nike People on Arthur RoadOn the other hand, Wimbledon Park From The All England ClubThey were almost neighbors of the Federers.

“We had an indoor pool and we also had a tennis court in the back. It was a really bad one,” Nakajima. “We ended up resurfacing the court because we wanted to stay at that house, we put the Nike swoosh on, and everything was pretty cool.”

The Nike The house was the Federers’ second home during the Championships. Mirka (Federer’s wife) and one of the nannies went swimming with the kids and Roger Played tennis with them.

“From my bedroom, I could see the tennis court,” Nakajima. “So I saw Roger feeding balls to his kids. It was almost embarrassing to see Roger Federer, the greatest player, playing tennis on one of the worst tennis courts. Later, he told me one of the boys said: ‘Dad, can you get off the court so my brother and I can play?’ He was on the side and his little boys were playing together. I asked him: ‘Hey, Rog, when was the last time you got kicked off a court?’ He just smiled. He must be fun to be around for his kids.”

Nakajima We worked with many stars NikeFrom John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Serena Williams And Maria Sharapova To Federer And Rafael Nadal. He Even accompanied Williams As a shopping assistant (not in his field of expertise). He First met Federer When Nike He was 13 years old when he was signed.

“He was up-and-coming, one of the top juniors. We brought him on and I realized right off the bat that he’s naturally charismatic and speaks well. And I noticed that he knew he was going to be great.”

Federer’s success story also became a stroke of luck for Nike. After Sampras And Agassi, Federer He was the next great tennis player. When Andy RoddickUnder contract to competitor ReebokAmerican senate voted for. Open In 2003, Nakajima As expected, it could be the start to the next US tennis wave. “But it didn’t happen. Europe became the hotbed of tennis, and Roger was the start of it.”

Nike Set out to popularize Federer In the USA. “I’m a little biased,” Nakajima. “But Marketing is something that no one does better than you. Nike. When The big deal is yours Nike You can make that athlete a star with your marketing machine.

“Roger would have been famous on his own for sure. Even if he was playing for any other brand. But he became a lot bigger because of Nike’s marketing machine. The exposure that Nike can provide to an athlete is amazing. Obviously, you have to have success on the court, which Roger had. He won a few US Opens; that opened many people’s eyes.”

The Partner with Nike Soon, expansion was made into new areas. “Roger got into fashion, meeting Anna Wintour of Vogue, doing photoshoots for GQ,” Nakajima. Federer Made WimbledonHis catwalk, the holy Grail of Tennis, is his. He You can wear a cardigan from the past, a white blazer, or long white pants. He Also available in matching accessories

In 2006, he wore on his jacket a logo that included his last name. In the next year, he wore his initials, RF, for the first-time. Federer This was a first in this area. Later, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic And Andy Murray Their logos were also created.

Federer sports Nike tennis shoes on Wimbledon's Centre Court in July 2019.

Nakajima said: “Many top athletes started to get signature lines because that became a bargaining chip for companies to sign them. If you sign with us, we’ll create your own logo, and we will create a shoe that you’ll get royalties on. Which athletes will say, “No, I don’t want that?”

The It was a groundbreaking RF line. “We Used to create a shirt for everyone in the globe, US style, baggy. But then we realized that Europeans They are so much ahead of fashion. Roger I wanted it to be more custom-made. So We started to create the Roger Federer collection.

“That’s something Mirka was very involved with. When Roger wasn’t available, Mirka was. She told us, ‘This is what Roger likes,’ and we went by that. And we wanted to make sure that the tennis product we made, especially for Roger, became wearable as fashion. A nice polo with a little RF logo; people just went crazy over that. The RF hat was our number one seller at the US Open. A hat. It became one of the most iconic pieces we have ever created.”

Nike I was fortunate to be able to not only Federer He is under contract, but he also has his rival Nadal. “Roger and Rafa, they’re very similar personalities. They are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But on the court, they were completely different. Roger plays like he is walking on a cloud, light on his feet. Rafa is the opposite; his physicality is just brute force. Americans love rivalry, and we portrayed that. People love taking sides. Vamos Rafa! Allez Roger! And we had a lot of fun marketing those two.”

Federer He was the highest-earning tennis player ever, with an annual income of over $100 million through advertising and prize money. Forbes.

“He has great marketability,” Nakajima. “I saw him speak four languages in a single interview and switch languages just like that. People tend to gravitate towards somebody willing to share himself and be unbashful. He’s able to appeal to any audience. And people believe that he’s saying the truth, whatever Roger pitches. He’s that believable.”

How Does Nakajima Explain Federer Outperforming his largest rivals in terms of marketability? “I’m not sure Rafa wants to be the highest-paid endorser in the world. I don’t think he cares. Rafa is Rafa, he has done extremely well and I don’t think he needs anything else. Roger wanted to be marketed, so he appealed to different brands, audiences and consumer groups. And his management company’s done an amazing job.”

And Djokovic? “He He could be the most successful player in tennis history. But there’s always a dark cloud around him. It’s like he brings it upon himself. He The lineswoman at the US Open (in 2020) And gets disqualified It It could happen, I suppose.

“But why does it always happen to Novak? Or the whole controversy about the Covid-19 vaccination. Now, as a brand: do I want to be behind somebody who always has controversy around him? Or do I want to go with an athlete with a squeaky clean image?”

Although He was a celebrity. Federer He was always faithful to himself, he said Nakajima: “I’ve had the privilege to meet so many world-class athletes. He’s one of the top on my list, with regards Roger, the game changer, to how nice of a person he is. Yes, he’s got a lot more money and a lot more of everything. But he hasn’t changed. Money and fame change people a lot. I’m not going to name names, but we certainly have athletes in our sport that have changed. Money changed how they see things, act and talk to people. Roger never did that.”

Nakajima The memories are fondly cherished Roger Federer Day on the Nike campus near Beaverton, OregonThis must have happened in 2007. “We You can find it here Nike The venue is home to world-class athletes Nike All the time. But It is rare that anyone at Nike allows you to meet and work with professional athletes. So When people visit, we love to make it special.

“Roger served coffee and doughnuts that day. He gave a gym lesson, passed out lunch, worked as a cashier, and played Wii tennis in the lobby of one of the buildings. You have to be a certain type of person to pull that off. Not many athletes are going to be OK with that. Roger was a perfect guy to do that. He’s a pleaser.”

Nakajima continued: “People I hate successful people. They’re jealous. But It amazes me that nobody ever says anything negative. Roger. Because of the way he portrays himself to others, he’s loved by others. Because He treats others with respect, is able to adapt his conversation to suit his audience. He Knows how talk to children and adults.

“I’ve had an event where he was supposed to be there an hour and was there for four hours. Four hours! Who does that? He knows that these are the people that watch him play. These are the people that are giving him sponsorships. He gets it.”

Federer signed a lucrative deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo in 2018.

When Federer Left Nike Summer 2018 After 24 years, we moved to Japanese Clothing retail chain Uniqlo That was a surprise on a 10-year contract worth $300 million. Nakajima.

“That should never have happened. For us to let somebody like that go, it’s an atrocity. Roger Federer belonged with Nike for the rest of his career. Just like Michael Jordan. Like LeBron James, like Tiger Woods. He’s right up there with the all-time greatest Nike athletes ever. I’m still disappointed. But it happened. I have to get over it. It wasn’t my decision and I wasn’t there for it.”

Nakajima Left Nike To start his own business in 2017. He BaseLine was founded in 2005 Performance Finance, which works with athletes as well as sports organizations. HoweverHe is still connected to NikeHis wife, brother, one of his three sons and one of their other sons also work there. For FedererThe move to Uniqlo He was able to invest in the future because his loan was paid off. Swiss Performance footwear company On It is important to promote the shoes. And it’s all about the shoes, right? “I’m sure everything works out for a reason,” Nakajima.

“Roger is going to be fine. So I’m happy for him. I probably would have done the same thing if I were in the same boat. Who might have turned down a $30 million a year contract? But it should have never gotten to that point. Nike is still selling millions and millions of pairs of Jordans. When’s the last time Michael played? It’s been many, many years. They could have done the same thing for Roger. For years to come, they could have created shoes with an RF logo.”

Where Does Nakajima Please see the Swiss What was his career like? “I can’t imagine he will be a commentator; nothing against that. But I’m sure he is thinking about other things. He’s such a savvy guy; if you’re a company, who wouldn’t want somebody like Roger working with you? I think he’ll branch out into other things. And his name will live on forever as one of the best athletes of all time.”