By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
August 25, 2011
Last month, the U.K.’s Marketing magazine published a consumer poll that shows Roger Federer "remains the sport’s best brand ambassador." Of the 1,000 U.K. respondents, close to 31% cited Federer "as the best ambassador for brands." Federer represents Gillette, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Credit Suisse, and coffee maker Jura brands, among others. Briton Andy Murray came in second in the poll with slightly over 17% of the vote, followed by Rafael Nadal at 14%. Among the women, Maria Sharapova "was considered the most attractive prospect for brands.”
Perhaps to his detriment on-court, judging by surprising losses in the Olympus U.S. Open Series, Nadal has been busy off-court the last few months working to complete his just-published autobiography Rafa and making appearances for his sponsor brands. Nadal appeared on CBS’ "Late Show" Wednesday night, sharing the stage with his Babolat racquets and David Letterman, and on Thursday held court at Macy’s Herald Square for Armani—where the first 100 people to make a $150 or more Armani Jeans Collection purchase also walked away with an autographed Emporio Armani Underwear brief.
While Lacoste is known to sponsor pro athletes, American Andy Roddick most prominently, the brand is apparently branching out. “In a twist,” says the New York Times, “the brand also recently began outfitting non-celebrities, including the wait staff, bus boys and valets at the Hamptons location” of Japanese restaurant Nobu. Lacoste has also partnered online with Jared Eng, the celebrity and fashion blogger who publishes JustJared.com.
Three-time U.S. Open champion Serena Williams just achieved a first in her storied career, winning the 2011 Olympus U.S. Open Series and its $1 million bonus payout. But Williams is only seeded #28 in Flushing Meadows, a reflection of her limited time on-court this year in the wake of numerous health issues. Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 runner-up, is the #1 seed in the draw leading up to the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Championship presented by JPMorgan Chase; Sharapova is the third seed, coming off her victory in Cincinnati last week.
Another player to watch throughout the Open is the number-five ranked woman, Li Na. Because of Li’s immense popularity in her native China, the 2011 French Open winner has signed more than $40 million in sponsorship deals this year with Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, and Haagen Dazs. Li could become the highest-earning woman in pro sports as early as this year, topping Sharapova. Though Li only has one Grand Slam win to date, a victory at the U.S. Open could help her on-court success catch up to her off-court victories.