Roger Federer is part of an elite group of athletes who have not only left an everlasting legacy in their sports, but have also gone on to reach a cool billion in career earnings. Think that the sport’s biggest icons and names like Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer are some of the first that pop into everyone’s mind. These athletes certainly had supreme talent and skill on the field, but they also had an aura about them that beckoned fans. They were and remain among the most marketable athletes we have ever seen. Naturally, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding their brand endorsement deals.
Nike was one of the first high-profile brands that Federer endorsed and had endorsed since 1994. To everyone’s surprise, it didn’t last beyond 2018 when the two fell out despite working together for over two decades. But Federer, who at the time was nearing the end of his career, pulled off a massive coup through this adversity and made a fortune worth $600 million from it.
Why did Nike let Roger Federer go?
Nike is known for having a very good eye for selecting athletes with huge potential early in their careers. The sportswear brand did just that with Federer, who donned all things Nike from the year 1994. As Federer rose through the ranks to establish himself as one of the best to step on a tennis court, his popularity and marketability off the court continued to soar also; fans swooned over him and put their utmost faith and trust in him – a gold mine for brands. Naturally, many expected this partnership between Federer and Nike to blossom into something similar to the brand’s hugely successful tie with Michael Jordan.
Federer had a massive ten-year $10 million annual deal with Nike that ran out in 2018. The expectation was that both parties would happily extend the contract, but Nike had other plans.
The sportswear brand decided to stick to the principle of not spending more than 10% of its total revenue on sponsorship deals with athletes. And with a roster of stars like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal already on its books, Nike decided not to sweeten the pot enough for Federer to remain as confusing as it sounds. You would think that Nike would do anything and everything to keep Federer and reap the benefits for decades to come, as it did with Michael Jordan.
However, Federer did what he has often done on the tennis court when faced with adversity; turn the tables by performing a magic trick that leaves everyone speechless.
Federer inked a deal with Japanese casualwear brand Uniqlo in June 2018. And not just any deal, but one worth three times his deal with Nike. Yes, it comes to about $30 million a year spanning ten years. That comes to a total of $300 million for Federer. This also meant that the then 36-year-old would continue to earn the $30 million a year even after retirement. But that was just one of the two best parts of the deal he made with Uniqlo.
The agreement between Federer and Uniqlo only covered clothing, compared to his deal with Nike, which covered both clothing and shoes. This gave the 20-time Grand Slam champion the freedom to sign another lucrative shoe sponsorship deal. But Roger being Roger, he did something even better.
Federer is on
For a while after signing his deal with Uniqlo, Roger continued to train and play in Nike shoes, although he was not paid for it. But a massive deal that would catapult his net worth was just around the corner, and his wife and biggest supporter Mirka also played a role in it.
Federer first learned about On shoes through his wife, who would wear them. After that, he began to see many people wearing shoes from the brand in his home country. This prompted the former world No. 1 to reach out to the founders of the brand, Olivier Bernhard, Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann. After some deliberation between the founders and Federer, the two parties struck a deal, but not just any straightforward endorsement deal.
Federer joined On as a brand ambassador, design partner and investor with a 3% stake in the company. Soon after, Federer began working on a tennis shoe with the company, along with a casual line called The Roger. Until then, On more or less frolicked in leisure shoes.
After announcing the investment deal in 2019, better things were on the way. Until 2020, On more or less only played in the Swiss market and some parts of Europe. But after the pandemic, On became a global brand. With a global reach, On was published after an IPO. When the company’s shares began trading publicly, the market capitalization reached about $10 billion, meaning Federer’s stake was worth an estimated $300 million.
Combine this $300 million worth of equity with the $300 million endorsement deal Federer struck with Uniqlo and you have a massive $600 million in earnings for the genius Swiss gem. Not bad in exchange for a $10 million a year contract with Nike.
Roger Federer earned just over $130 million in prize money during his tennis career. Add to that the fortune he’s made in brand endorsements, including $300 million from Uniqlo among other massive endorsement deals, and the Swiss has earned around $1 billion so far. His net worth comes to around $550 million according to Celebrity Net Worth.