SBJ/March 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

Federer nears lifetime deal with Wilson

Roger Federer is close to signing a landmark contract with Wilson Sporting Goods that will pay him more than any tennis player has ever received for endorsing a racket, tennis sources said.

Federer, seldom a loser, has celebrated many
victories with Wilson rackets.
At $2 million a year, the Wilson deal may not sound like much. But racket deals are not blockbusters in tennis largely because the commercial market is modest and players do not like switching between firms. Wilson is expected to announce soon that it has signed the No. 1-ranked player to a lifetime deal. (Federer will serve as an “ambassador” for the company after his playing career.)

It is the first commercial contract Federer has signed since rehiring IMG last year as his agency, a move viewed as a way to improve the marketability of the underappreciated star. Tony Godsick, Federer’s agent, is negotiating the deal. He declined to comment.

“[Federer] is a wonderful ambassador for Wilson and tennis,” said Michael Wallace, Wilson global director of tennis marketing. “We are very optimistic we will be able to go forward with him.”

Wallace said the deal was being negotiated and he could not comment on terms. Others, however, said the deal was all but done and just awaiting Federer’s signature.

Federer has always played with Wilson, but his contract expired in December. While he may be the undisputed No. 1 player — and some are already arguing the best ever — the number Wilson is paying is startling for a few reasons.

First, Wilson has never paid the big bucks. And second, tennis players are loath to switch racket brands for fear it could hurt their game, meaning incumbent sponsors need not fear rivals snatching top stars.

Federer's Endorsements
Company
Category
Nike
Sneakers and Aapparel
Wilson*
Tennis rackets
Swissair Group
Airlines
Maurice Lacroix
Watchmaker
Emmi
Food products
* Federer is no longer under contract but is close to re-signing.
Source: Rogerfederer.com
“How many guys have you seen who switch racket companies and go from [No.] 5 to 50 in the world?” asked Ian Hamilton, the former sports marketing czar at Nike who is now with sports consultant Nonbox.

Hamilton sees Wilson’s Federer investment as a good idea, but only if the firm follows up with promotions and advertising, something tennis sponsors have not done frequently.

But he points to Babolat, the little-known French racket maker whose sales took off after endorser Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open.

“Roddick put that racket on the map,” Hamilton said.

Signed by IMG as a junior in 1998, Federer quit the agency in 2003 and handed his business matters to Roger Federer Management, which consists of an attorney, a financial adviser and his mother, Lynette Federer.

The Swiss national has not emerged as a Madison Avenue darling. His Nike deal pays him only $1 million guaranteed a year (bonuses take it to about $4 million). But Federer’s other endorsements are lean, which is one reason he went back to IMG.

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