May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic signed a five-year deal with Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, owned by Asia’s biggest clothing retailer Fast Retailing Co.
Wearing a white tennis outfit made by Uniqlo at a press conference in Paris, Djokovic told reporters he will have design input in the deal. He’ll wear Uniqlo clothing both on and off the court.
The agreement with the 25-year-old Serb gives Uniqlo additional global brand exposure. He’s the reigning Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open champion, and rose to the top spot in the men’s rankings last July after his first Wimbledon title. The French Open, which he’s never won, starts May 27 in Paris.
Fast Retailing, controlled by Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s richest man, has expanded in Asia outside of Japan to reduce its dependence on its home market.
Uniqlo wants to open “many stores” in France, Fast Retailing president Yanai said at the press conference today. Uniqlo sales were “extremely good’ in France, but “poor” in some stores in the U.K., Yanai added. Uniqlo is planning to expand its stores in Europe from this fall, he said.
Djokovic’s previous clothing sponsor, Sergio Tacchini International, yesterday said its agreement with the Serb ended because he’d “outgrown” their brand. Tennis champions including John McEnroe had previously worn the Italian company’s clothing.
In November 2009, when ranked third, Djokovic signed a long-term deal with Sergio Tacchini and ended his link-up with Adidas AG, the world’s second-biggest sporting goods maker. Two weeks prior to that, Adidas said it signed fourth-ranked Andy Murray of Britain on a “long-term contract.”
There’s no buyout clause in Djokovic’s agreement with Uniqlo, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified because the financial terms of the deal haven’t been made public.
“It’s time to move on,” from the Sergio Tacchini partnership, Djokovic said today. He’ll continue to wear tennis shoes made by Adidas, he said.
Yamaguchi, Japan-based Fast Retailing opened the world’s largest Uniqlo brand casual clothing store in Tokyo’s Ginza district in March as it attempts to change its image to that of a global company, using English as an official language and hiring international staff. The company also sponsors Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, ranked 18th in the world.