Swiss tennis players Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka stand together at the pinnacle of men’s tennis. Both are consistently ranked in the top five worldwide. Together they won the Davis Cup last November and their team effort in men’s doubles won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. But their sponsorship programs follow distinctly different directions. Federer promotes global brands seeking select upper income clients – Rolex, UBS Wealth Management and Moet & Chandon Champagne, as well as the leading global brand in sportswear, Nike. Stan Wawrinka’s lead sponsor Yonex is a global brand, too, but much more focused on the healthy niche of athletes who actually play sports and play to win.
Yonex is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and portrays itself as a sports technology company and has an impressive portfolio of patents to show why. A patent issued in 2012 featured “shock absorbing portion is made of a material that is more elastically deformable than a material of the hard portion.” Yonex tennis shoes also employ patented technology for improved shock absorption and are designed to transform the shocks caused by each play into energy. The brand name, “Power Cushion,” says it all.
While many major brands in the sports world like Adidas and Puma have grown by producing products for almost any sporting activity, Yonex focuses on three sports popular with upper income players – tennis, badminton and golf. The firm uses its sports related expertise to manufacture high-performance products that deliver results. Tennis sportswear designed by Yonex is designed to win matches, not to dazzle the readers of Men’s Vogue.
Yonex and Stan Wawrinka are a good match. Wawrinka pursues technical excellence in tennis and stays close to the tennis community. The tennis player’s sponsorship agreement with Subaru reinforces the emphasis on performance. Both sponsorship programs benefit from credibility and authenticity. You can actually see Warwrinka using the sponsors’ gear at his home club in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Wawrinka’s local sponsorship base in Switzerland leverages the popularity of making a community proud. He is the spokesperson for a local optical boutique called VisiLab. What could give a vision lab better credibility than multiple wins at world tournaments? He is also the face of the local bank, Banc Cantonale Vaudoise, which builds upon Wawrinka’s local appeal to differentiate its services from impersonal global institutions.
Both Federer and Wawrinka are synonymous with success. But the number of multi-billion dollar companies who can manage complex endorsement promotions with top talents like Federer is limited. Wawrinka’s organic approach to working with sponsors whose products he actually uses to his advantage on the tennis court is an appealing alternative to many athletes and teams who have their sights set on similar success.