International Blog – Michael Dickens
Roger Federer has never been one to dwell on life after tennis, suggesting recently that he is far from being ready to retire. The Swiss star finished 2019 ranked No. 3, won 84 percent of his matches (compiling a 53-10 win-loss record) and captured four titles (Dubai, Miami, Halle, Basel). However, as one who has always been conscious about connecting with his fans across cultures through both brand building and global marketing, Federer has started to talk about what comes next in his life. After all, his days of traveling the world – racquet in hand – and winning Grand Slams won’t last forever. Or will they?
Recently, Federer, 38, who said that he owns at least 250 pairs of sneakers, connected with a small Swiss brand, On, which has grown into the No. 1 running shoe brand in Switzerland. He has become an investor in the company and is also contributing his time as a product designer and representing the brand, which was born in the Swiss Alps in 2010 – the creation of former pro triathlete Olivier Bernhard and partners David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti – and is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city. Its signature Cloud footwear – a casual shoe built on running shoe tech and sold in 55 countries – features an “On” light switch logo, Swiss flag and a multiglobular cushioned rubber sole. It retails for $130 in the U.S.
According to a recent Sunday Styles feature article in The New York Times, Federer said he’s taken notice of how many people in Switzerland are wearing On shoes.
“They were impossible to ignore because everyone had them, people on the street, my friends, my wife,” he said. “At first, I thought that they were a little strange to look at, then I realized I actually really like the design.”
In a country known for its fine delicious chocolate, precision luxury watches and private banks, Federer is showing his hometown pride through his association with On. “We like it when little Swiss guys make a move on the international stage,” he said of the up-and-coming “cool” company.
Federer has begun wearing the On brand for sprint training and enjoys putting them on for everyday use, too. In a show of brilliant brand building and global marketing genius, an Instagram video posted on Monday shows the 20-time Grand Slam champion enjoying a jog through bustling New York City streets sporting a pair of red Ons, pausing to pose for selfies with surprised, awestruck fans.
The first On assignment for @rogerfederer? An all-action run through NYC. From making an appearance on the @todayshow to setting the pace in Central Park, watch Roger beat the New York traffic on clouds.
— On (@on_running) November 26, 2019
The highest-paid tennis player in the world with brand partnerships that include Uniqlo, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz and Credit Suisse – Federer has a net worth that’s estimated at $450 million – just wrapped up a highly-publicized, South American barnstorming tour with Alexander Zverev in Quito, Ecuador on Sunday evening, just hours after Spain won the Davis Cup title in Madrid. On Monday morning, Federer was in New York City, where he appeared on NBC’s Today Show to chat about his new entrepreneurial venture into fashion with On. He told co-host Savannah Guthrie, “I thought it would be a perfect time to be a part of that. I love my fashion, as you know. I live the shoes, they’re great. I’ll help them whenever I can. It will be a lot of fun,” he said.
On has positioned itself in a nice intersection of fashion, performance and outdoor lifestyles – areas which Federer is well-suited to be the perfect Swiss export to draw interest from the kind of smart, affluent crowd the company covets. No doubt, Federer will help On expand from being just a niche brand – and he feels good about committing to what comes next. Look for his first product range, in which he’ll have input, to come out next summer.
By the end of the Today Show interview, Guthrie popped the question many – journalists and tennis fans, alike – have wanted to ask Federer: Is this laying the groundwork for the R-word – retirement? Federer, whose 2020 plans include playing in the Grand Slams as well as the Olympic Games and the Laver Cup, smiled at the thought, then politely – and in a friendly but firm voice – said: “No. I know I’ve been asked all week about how is retirement going to be? When is it going to come? I think they all just needed to know. But, no, this is not about retirement. On doesn’t want me to retire. They want me to play as long as possible – and that’s also my goal. … I will never retire.”