Fields was commenting after Federer recently announced that he would retire from playing competitive tennis after this weekend’s Laver Cup event in London.
“Roger Federer is widely accepted to be one of tennis’ greatest ever players, but he is also a brand that transcends the tennis world and sport more generally – he is a recognized celebrity globally, and much of that can be attributed to the way he has cultivated his personal brand over more than two decades,” said Fields.
According to Fields, there are several intangible factors that have contributed to the strength of Federer’s personal brand. There are lessons other athletes can learn from the decisions Federer has taken in that regard, she said.
Fields said: “Federer’s personal brand is built out of a clean-cut image, taking care in his appearance and wearing stylish clothing, and being friendly and personable with fans and the media. He appears to have made a conscious choice early in his career to tackle on-court ill-discipline. His decisions off-court, coupled with his success on-court, attracted some of the world’s biggest companies to agree major sponsorship agreements. His association with prestigious brands has only helped elevate his personal brand.”
At the time of his retirement, Federer’s roster of sponsors covers some of the world’s most well-known brands across a variety of sectors. Sponsors include Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Credit Suisse, Lindt, Barilla, Moët & Chandon, Rimowa, and UNIQLO.
Federer also previously had a 10-year relationship with Nike. Fields said that a dispute that arose at the end of that sponsorship agreement highlighted why athletes should give careful thought to who should own elements of their brand.
Fields said: “When Federer left his sponsorship deal with Nike for UNIQLO, Nike initially retained the rights to the ‘RF’ logo, which had been designed specifically for Federer in 2010. Federer has subsequently acquired the rights to the logo himself, freeing him up to control and benefit from how the brand is exploited commercially after he has retired.”
An extension of the Federer brand is the Laver Cup, a unique annual event first played in 2017, which is taking place at the O2 Arena in London this weekend. Federer and his management team created the event, which has similarities to the Ryder Cup in golf, pitting a team of six men’s players from Europe against another six players from the rest of the world.
“The Laver Cup is not the only team-based event in tennis, but it has established itself in the calendar as one that is popular with players, fans and prestigious commercial partners alike,” said Fields. “There are a number of unique features of the event, such as its format and the prominent use of colors, including the distinctive black courts that matches are played on, that mark the event out of a regular tour event. The overall branding is very elegant with ‘a logo and brand identity that represents the history, quality and class of Rod Laver’. The fact that this is an event that is likely to endure beyond the retirement of its creator, Roger Federer, is testament to the strength and legacy of his personal brand.”
“Developing a brand protection strategy early can set athletes up to capitalize on the brands they build after their playing days are over. Federer’s is a brand that I expect will endure for decades yet,” she said.
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