Tennis icon Roger Federer has been sidelined from the court since knee surgery in February; a follow-up procedure in May pushed his return to the court to 2021, while the rest of the pros hope for an August return after the coronavirus shutdown.

Yet, the Roger Federer business empire marches on, despite the layoff. The latest for Federer is his first sneaker in conjunction with Swiss performance running brand On. “The Roger” tennis-inspired lifestyle sneaker follows a partnership in late 2019 between the 20-time grand slam champion and the startup running company.

“The minimalist design and easy comfort of On’s shoes had me hooked years ago. I wanted to infuse the tennis sneaker with the same lightness, comfort and agility for every day,” said Federer in a statement announcing the launch.

Federer invested in On in November as part of their endorsement agreement, and one source called the equity stake “significant.” On launched in 2010, and sales have doubled annually since then, according to the privately-held company. On is available in 6,000 retailers in 55 countries worldwide. The U.S. is its biggest market, where it own 6.6% of the performance running shoe category, according to research firm NPD.

The Swiss tennis ace landed atop Forbes’ annual look at the world’s highest paid athletes in late May with $106 million from prize money, endorsements and appearances over 12 months. He was the first tennis place to rank as the top earner since Forbes started tracking athlete paydays in 1990.

His 13 sponsors spend anywhere from $3 million to $30 million to align themselves with Federer. Golfer Tiger Woods is the only other active athlete to bank $100 million in a single year just from sponsors. “His brand is pristine,” says David Carter, a sports business professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, “which is why those that can afford to align with him clamor to do so.”

Federer was a staple of Nike
’s tennis marketing for two decades as part of the sportswear giant’s endorsement stable. But the Swoosh and Federer split in 2018, and Federer subsequently landed a massive 10-year, $300 million deal with Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo. The deal left an opening for Federer to also add a new sneaker deal, since Uniqlo is not in the sneaker game. Federer capitalized with the On agreement.

On says The Roger is crafted from vegan leather and has been designed for lightness to reduce material consumption and its environmental footprint. It also differs from traditional tennis shoes with their heavy rubber soles. The new tennis shoe incorporates On’s CloudTec technology, which is intended to deliver a “soft landing followed by an explosive take-off.”

The first version of the shoe is the Centre Court 0-Series, which is limited to 1,000 pairs and will be available through a draw on On’s website and exclusively at Dover Street Market retailers worldwide at a price of $249.99. Federer revealed the sneaker Monday morning in a streaming live event 17 years to the day after he won the first of his record eight Wimbledon crowns.


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