New Sponsors Stepping Onto Court

Novak Djokovic in ShanghaiA typical Grand Slam tennis match is no longer just about the stroke and bounce, it’s also about branding. The last decade has been dominated with clothing proudly displaying swooshes (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams) and three striped sleeves (Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Caroline Wozniacki) as well as the odd double diamond. It’s been fairly predictable until now. There’s a new goup of fashion and lifestyle brands jumping onto court and they’re putting big money behind the players.

It was a bit of a surprise when Novak Djokovic signed with Japanese fast-fashion brand Uniqlo – a brand known more for its puffy jackets than its sports apparel. But it’s been a complete boon for the Asian company as the tennis player has introduced Uniqlo to a new market through his continued excellent performance.

Six months later, other high street retailers jumped on the bandwagon with Swedish company H&M announcing it had signed up Czech player Tomas Berdych to wear its first tennis line. The success of the partnership has resulted in H&M dressing the Swedish Olympic, Paralympic and Winter Olympic teams.

Next up was New Balance who signed young Canadian Milos Raonic to wear their gear and then UnderArmour who have had an ever increasing deal with Sloane Stephens – both future stars of the Grand Slam circuit. By getting in early these companies will have received excellent bang for their buck – that is, of course, assuming these new players perform up to expectation.

Tennis sponsorship has become a high risk game – a bit like gambling on Unlike sponsoring big teams, tennis sponsorship means relying on just one person versus a few potential stars in one team. But the rewards too are high. Thanks to strict laws on branding, only the sponsor’s logo is in sight.

It’s likely we will be seeing many more fast-fashion, high street brands on the court, eroding the market share of Nike and Adidas. It’s all a matter of forecasting at the moment for both players and brands. The rewards could be extremely high.

© photo credit: HEAD Tennis