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Winning is just reward for Federer

(Keystone)

Victory at Wimbledon on Sunday took Roger Federer’s total prize money for the year to over $3.7 million (SFr4.8 million), easily outstripping his closest rivals.

But when it comes to off-court earnings through sponsorship deals the Swiss is far from being the leader of the pack.

With five grand-slam titles under his belt, including three successive Wimbledon crowns, and blessed with a natural talent not seen in years, the 23-year-old would appear to be a marketing man’s dream – and he is.

The press purr over him, past champions feel honoured to be ranked alongside him, and he still sheds a tear when he wins.

Even beaten Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, who has lost nine of his past ten matches against the Swiss, doesn’t have a bad word to say about him.

"I’ve told him before, 'I’d like to hate you but you’re too nice’," said the American after losing to Federer in straight sets for the second year in succession.

Earnings power

Yet despite his undoubted marketability, Federer does not lead the world rankings when it comes to earnings.

That prize goes to the veteran Andre Agassi who amassed $28 million last year, according to business magazine Forbes. It is estimated that Federer’s annual income amounts to less than half of that.

For Beat Ritschard, managing director of the Swiss office of global sports marketing giant Octagon, the reason for this is clear: Federer is more interested in winning titles than boosting his bank balance.

"It seems that his focus is on the sport side rather than the marketing side, and that’s one reason why he is so successful," he told swissinfo.

"I think he is just a bit different from most of the other players. He really believes that his highest priority is the sport and not the money."

Close-knit circle

Federer is perhaps unique among the world’s top sports stars in that he is not managed by one of the big sports marketing agencies.

His affairs are handled by his close-knit entourage, which includes his mother Lynette, his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec and his general adviser Bernhard Christen.

According to his website, the Basel-born player has sponsorship deals with just five companies: Nike, Wilson, Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix, the Emmi dairy and the national airline, Swiss. He also has his own range of cosmetics, which was launched in October 2003.

Ritschard suggests that another reason why Federer is not tied up in sponsorship contracts is that he covets time away from the public eye.

"He seems to be not as extrovert by nature as many other top stars. He likes to be in front of the fans and playing tennis, but maybe he does not crave the limelight when he is off the court."

While this would appear to pose a problem for any sponsor looking for maximum exposure for their products, Maurice Lacroix has no complaints about its five-year deal with the world number one.

"I think our brand works well with him," Claudia Staber from the watchmaker’s marketing department told Swiss television. "He comes across as very personable, friendly and natural.

"And when you consider that the best way of selling watches is to use emotions, our association with him works brilliantly."

Sponsors

Maurice Lacroix and Federer’s other four sponsors are likely to have the Swiss star all to themselves for a little while longer.

His adviser Bernhard Christen told swissinfo on Monday that new sponsors were unlikely to be brought on board in the immediate future.

This is not due to a lack of requests from firms in Switzerland and abroad, but more to do with the fact that Federer cannot spare the time.

"He is absolutely focused on sport and we are not under pressure from his side to sign new contracts. His primary objective is to stay number one and to do that he needs to keep his outside commitments to a minimum," said Christen.

"Of course he will have some more sponsorship deals in the future, but he will not have six or seven in addition to those he has already – perhaps only a couple more," he added.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

Key facts

Roger Federer:

Prize money 2005: $3.7 million.
Career prize money: $17.8 million.
He leads the ATP world rankings by more than 3,000 points.

end of infobox

In brief

Federer has won eight titles this year: Doha, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Hamburg, Halle and Wimbledon.

Last year he won 11 tournaments, including the Australian and US Opens, and Wimbledon.

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