Federer: I’m about tennis first and foremost

In 2015 Roger Federer was named the world’s most marketable athlete in a list prepared by the London School of Marketing (LSM), beating off the challenge of the likes of LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo. This was despite the Swiss maestro having failed to win a grand slam since 2012 and having dropped down the rankings behind Novak Djokovic and now Andy Murray.

Speaking in July when the list of released, Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the LSM, said that it Federer’s personality and not just his play that is key.

“He may not have won Wimbledon [in 2015], but it’s Federer’s personal characteristics which sponsors find so attractive,” said De Cock.

Tony Godsick, CEO of TEAM8, expressed similar sentiments when talking to the official ATP website.

“Roger is genuine, honest, down to earth, and gives his time generously to his partners and foundation. Companies look for role models and Roger is as good as it gets,” explained Godsick.

However, while Federer is humbled by the way in which fans and marketers alike have taken to him off the court, the 34-year-old sees things slightly differently.

“It’s about tennis at the end of the day,” he told reporters in Melbourne earlier this week. “It’s definitely nice to have nice deals and a great image and all that stuff. But at the end of the day I’m a tennis player. I think then you can choose how you want to handle yourself on and off the court.”

Federer believes that the key to building a brand empire has been remaining down to earth and genuine.

“I think it’s always important to stay true to yourself, be yourself, don’t change because a management tells you to or press tells you to or tournaments tell you to. As long as you respect the game integrity is right there. I think it’s crucial,” he explained.

“I’m happy that I was able to stay myself, know how to behave at what times. So, yeah, I am very proud of all the partners I’ve had and been able to partner up with throughout my career. It’s been a great learning experience for me to be with such great brands and then to have had the success to back it up as well is really important. If there’s a huge disbalance, it can also maybe be an uncomfortable feeling.”

Key to Federer’s success, he says, is a good grounding from the start of his career where he was guided by his friends, family and countrymen.

Asked how he managed to carve out an image of the consummate professional from so early in his career, Federer credited those around him.

“Your family values, parents, friends, coaching in the very beginning,” he said of how he coped with the pressure early on.

“Maybe your fellow tennis friends, mates. For me it was Marc Rosset from Switzerland. He was a big influence on me because he guided me around the tour a little bit, showed me where to string a racquet, where to book practice. Maybe if you’re not sure how to handle the press, whatever it was, you could always ask the right people.

“Then, of course, you’ve got to do it quickly. The spotlight’s on you when you’re a teenager. Yeah, you got to react very quickly to all the things that are coming at you.

“That’s why I think it’s always very interesting to follow a teenager growing up on the tennis tour. I miss them, actually, that we don’t see more of them, because they still are so young and just themselves. Eventually you figure out how to handle yourself on and off the court. But I think the process is always very intriguing.”

Federer is correct in a sense, he wouldn’t have sponsors clamouring at his door if it wasn’t for his tennis, but the way in which he handles himself – and has done so from the start – is what has set him apart from some of his peers in tennis and across all sporting codes.

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