SBJ/June 12 - 18, 2006/This Weeks News

Time for a change: Federer signs with Rolex

Rolex has signed Roger Federer to what is thought to be the most lucrative watch deal ever for an athlete, a tennis source said.

The deal could pay Federer up to $15 million.
The Swiss Federer recently broke off his endorsement with Maurice Lacroix two years into a five-year contract and almost immediately signed the Rolex deal, which will pay him up to $15 million over roughly a decade. He paid a breakup fee to Lacroix to get out of that contract.

“Roger wanted to change,” said Claudia Staber, a spokeswoman for Maurice Lacroix, a Zurich, Switzerland-based watchmaker. Asked whether Federer had to pay to get out of the deal, she replied, “Of course. It was a good deal for us.” She declined to disclose the fee.

Such developments are quite rare for athletes, though they reflect Federer’s surge to the top of his sport and his switch to IMG as his agent. IMG wants to make Federer a global presence, and Rolex fits that bill better than Lacroix.

Nonetheless, an athlete buying his way out of an endorsement had some in the business surprised.

“I have never heard about it, especially coming to somebody you are signed with to join a competitor,” said Nova Lanktree, who matches companies with athlete endorsers at CSMG International. “It is a very atypical way of dealing with an existing contract.”

Federer's endorsements
Sneakers and apparel
Tennis rackets
Swissair Group
Food products

The Switzerland-based Rolex did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment, though the company has already begun featuring Federer on its Web page along with a testimonial to his play. Federer’s official Web site,, now lists Rolex as his sponsor.

Rolex also sponsors Wimbledon, which Federer has won three straight years, so it would hardly be a stretch to expect advertising around that event, which begins in two weeks, featuring the Swiss player.

Federer previously endorsed Rolex, but he joined Maurice Lacroix in 2004 when he was managed by his family and girlfriend. Last year he signed with IMG and is now represented by Tony Godsick, who declined to comment for this story.

This is the second deal Godsick has struck for Federer, following a new contract with Wilson tennis rackets that pays Federer more than any other tennis player.

Rolex has a host of musical and athletic endorsers and sponsors numerous events, including Wimbledon, 24 hours of Le Mans, the U.S. Open Golf Championship and the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The deal with Federer does not require him to wear the watch during play, only during trophy presentations.

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