Understand why Roger Federer, already retired, is one of the highest paid athletes in the world

Understand why Roger Federer, already retired, is one of the highest paid athletes in the world
Understand why Roger Federer, already retired, is one of the highest paid athletes in the world

Roger Federer played only one official match in the 2022 season. It was a doubles game, which marked his retirement, in a tournament that does not distribute prizes to participants. Even so, the Swiss surprised by entering the Top 10 of the best paid athletes, in the famous list of Forbes magazine. After a practically zero year in his career, how does Federer manage to remain so relevant in the world of sports? What is his secret?

The now former tennis player appeared in ninth place by Forbes, with estimated earnings of US$ 95.1 million (about R$ 472 million, at current exchange rates), between May 2022 and the same month of this year, due to two conditions rare in the world of sport: income concentrated in sponsorships and long-term contracts.

This is unusual even in the world of tennis, whose athletes do not have salaries, as happens with soccer and basketball players, professionals who shared the Top 10 of Forbes with Federer. The vast majority of tennis players depend essentially on tournament prizes to survive and build wealth.

The sponsors will allow the 41-year-old Swiss to maintain the high standard of his earnings even years after his retirement, made official in September 2022. Federer has a lifetime contract with Wilson, a manufacturer of rackets and balls, and has maintained ties with major brands , such as Mercedes and Rolex, according to the Estadão – the companies do not reveal the duration of the agreements.

Roger Federer said goodbye to the courts in 2022 Photograph: Glyn Kirk / AFP

Even when he was sidelined by injury, he became a poster boy for Switzerland Tourism, the state agency for promoting tourism in Switzerland.

In terms of figures, the great boost in the tennis player’s income took place in the final stretch of his career, in agreements with the Japanese Uniqlo and the Swiss On, between 2018 and 2019, when he lifted his last trophies on the circuit.

In 2018, the year of his last Grand Slam title, Federer became the athlete who earned the most sponsorships in the world thanks to the agreement with Uniqlo, which replaced Nike in his portfolio. The 10-year contract was not only surprising due to its duration and the value of US$ 300 million (almost R$ 1.5 billion). At the time, pundits criticized Nike for losing the world tennis star, but they were also shocked by the Swiss’s ability to make such a long contract when everyone already knew that his retirement was approaching.

With the deal, Federer started to wear Uniqlo clothes in each match. But he still maintained ties with Nike for footwear. Until, the following year, he became a minority partner of On, a Swiss tennis manufacturer that saw in the athlete the ideal profile of a poster boy. The company debuted on the stock exchange in September 2021 with an estimated value of US$ 10 billion (almost R$ 50 billion). In practice, the 3% that Federer owns in the company became about US$ 300 million, something around R$ 1.5 billion.

It is not by chance that the Swiss became the highest paid athlete in the world in 2020 for the first time in his career. On the back of these off-court feats, he not only made the Forbes Celebrity Top 100 list, he was ranked third, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The magazine estimates that the former tennis player has received US$ 1.1 billion (R$ 5.4 billion) during his entire career, including awards, sponsorships and payments for exhibitions.


The long-term contracts and the wide list of sponsors – companies such as Lindt, Credit Suisse and Moët & Chandon still appear on its official website – are the result of efficient career management, in the opinion of specialists. The Swiss’ success in managing his image is unanimous and a benchmark for marketers in all areas.

“He knew that this moment of retirement would come and everything was thought out so that his image would go beyond the courts. He knew how to build a reputation in the spotlight and in contact with his fans. This is something new, from his generation”, said Ivan Martinho, marketing professor at ESPM, to the Estadão.

The specialist remembers that at the beginning of his career, the Swiss starred in some episodes of intemperance on the court. But that were soon contained as he stood out on the circuit. “After that, he had no involvement in controversies. He was very elegant on the court, praising rivals even when he lost. It was a career full of hits. He then managed to associate professionalism, success and relationships with his image.”

Martinho believes that Federer will be able to make history off the court, as he did on the circuit, if he manages to renew his sponsorship contracts even after retirement. “It would be phenomenal. It will depend a lot on his ability to remain relevant.”

“The story of athletes with longer contracts, post-retirement, is something very new, the result of social networks and closer relationships with fans. We will probably have more cases in the future because now the brand takes the content, which is the athlete, and also the distribution channel, which is now social networks. Federer is paving the way for other athletes. It will be the pioneer”, evaluates Martinho.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Understand Roger Federer retired highest paid athletes world



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