The sponsorship landscape at the top of professional tennis
New year new gear. Looking forward to a partnership with one of the greatest sports companies of all time – Adidas pic.twitter.com/jDj2dphAEz
— Tomáš Berdych (@tomasberdych) January 5, 2016
The first Grand Slam of the year is up and running and we have already seen a few surprises. A new year, a new season means new outfits on court. A range of brands is sponsoring the elite of professional tennis. Not only the main companies in the sports apparel industry are represented, also smaller and upcoming brands are getting eyeballs on their brand via high ranked players.
In this article we will take a look at the clothing landscape at the top of professional tennis by looking at some recent major deals and breaking down the sponsors of the seeded players at this year’s Australian Open.
New sponsorship deals
Several new sponsor partnerships were established in the off-season, while other deals were renewed. Of the 32 seeds at the Australian Open four men got new gear for the new season, while three women changed their sponsorship partners.
— Fila Tennis (@FilaTennis) January 5, 2016
John Isner agreed a deal with Fila after a four-year partnership with Lacoste. Lacoste also lost David Goffin from their sponsorship portfolio. The Belgian agreed a deal with Asics. Thomas Berdych is the highest ranked player changing his clothing sponsor. He now wears Adidas on court, after sporting H&M clothing, co-designed by him, for several seasons.
Japanese company Mizuno wants to increase focus on the tennis market again and has therefore signed big server Ivo Karlovic for all gear and Roberto Bautista Agut for shoes.
Another Japanese company, Uniqlo, is already very much at the forefront of men’s tennis. Uniqlo sponsors world number one Novak Djokovic and just renewed its partnership with Kei Nishikori. The new deal with the Japanese super star may well exceed $10 million a year, according to insiders.
In the women’s game three players seeded at the Australian Open switched clothing sponsors in the off-season. Lacoste lost another high ranked player with Timea Bacsinszky, who is now partnering with Asics. Highest ranked ambassador for Ellesse Elina Svitolina agreed a deal with Nike. Czech Karolina Pliskova joined Isner at Fila.
Sponsorship breakdown of the seeds
To map the sponsor landscape at the top of professional tennis, an overview was made of the 32 men and women seeds at the Australian Open and their sponsors. As clothing and shoe sponsorships sometimes differ a distinction was made.
It is clear that Nike and Adidas, the most recognisable brands in the sports apparel industry, are heavily present in tennis.
Nike and Adidas sponsor 59% of the top 32 women at the Australian Open. This percentage rises to 66% regarding the footwear of the best women. Fila and Lotto follow with each three women in their portfolio. Asics sponsors two women, while five other brands have one ambassador among the seeded women.
For men the sponsors are a bit more evenly spread with 13 different brands. A third of the players is represented by either Nike or Adidas. Lotto and Lacoste both have four players among the seeded players in Melbourne. However, 53% of the players wear Nike or Adidas shoes. This is due to some brands not having proper shoe wear. Three out of four Lacoste players wear Nike shoes, while Uniqlo ambassadors Nishikori and Djokovic both wear Adidas shoes.
Value of sponsorships
Changes in sponsorship partners happen, as you saw earlier in this article, and it is not always easy to find a (right) sponsor. Uniqlo made a great move by picking up Djokovic when his deal with Sergio Tacchini went south and when few other brands saw the potential or had the means. With the success of Djokovic in recent seasons they should be able to capitalise big on this partnership.
Other high ranked players, like Federer and Serena Williams, have partnered with their sponsor for ages. Federer has a reported 10-year contract worth over $10 million a year with Nike. That is a similar reported value as Nadal’s contract with Nike. In comparison, Murray’s contract with Under Armour is thought to be a four-year deal worth around £15million (around $5.3 million a year).