Swiss Embrace Wawrinka With Cowbells No Match for Federer’s Cash
Wawrinka, the eighth seed, completed a run to his first major tennis title by defeating top-seeded Nadal in Melbourne on Jan. 26. The reaction back home in Switzerland was swift: He got a congratulatory text from President Didier Burkhalter, and his hometown of Saint-Barthelemy (population 783) became “Stan-Barthelemy” for the morning.
Even though the victory pushed the 28-year-old to the No. 3 ranking in the world from No. 8, passing countryman Federer and his record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, it won’t mean a windfall, said Nigel Currie, director of London-based sports and entertainment marketing agency brandRapport.
“Winning a Grand Slam is the biggest stamp you can have on a C.V. as a tennis player, Currie said by telephone. ‘‘But sponsorship deals don’t happen at the snap of a finger.’’
He needs to continue winning on the sport’s biggest stages to bring his fame and stardom to a higher level, he said.
‘‘Wawrinka has taken the first step,’’ he said. ‘‘But he needs to establish himself in the top group of players and stay there two or three years.’’
Wawrinka, a father of one, isn’t focused on expanding his brand too rapidly, said Sebastien Chiappero, chief executive officer of Sponsorize, the Geneva-based company which has managed Wawrinka’s endorsement rights since last year.
His sponsors, which are mainly Swiss companies including regional lender Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCVN), pay between 50,000 Swiss francs and 250,000 francs ($277,654) a year for the Swiss market, with international prices rising to as much as 1 million francs. That won’t change much, Chiappero said.
‘‘Sponsorship rights are not going to spike and prices will be negotiated on a one-to-one basis,” he said.
While he passed Federer in rank, he isn’t close to matching Federer’s endorsement portfolio. Still, Chiappero said he already had a few calls from mid-sized Swiss companies interested in signing his client.
Federer, 32, made $71.5 million in the 12 months through May, according to Forbes magazine. Tony Godsick, his agent, didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment. Only Tiger Woods, 38, made more among athletes, with $78.1 million.
Federer earned $65 million in endorsements from sponsors including Nike Inc. (NKE) and Credit Suisse (CSGN), according to the magazine. Spain’s Nadal made $21 million in endorsements bringing total earnings to $26 million, while Novak Djokovic of Serbia, No. 2 in the tennis rankings, earned $26.9 million with $14 million in sponsorship. That compares to Wawrinka’s $11.2 million, including his A$2.65 million ($2.32 million)prize money from Melbourne, according to Swiss newspaper Le Temps. Chiappero declined to comment on how much Wawrinka makes in endorsements.
Should Wawrinka continue winning, his value as an endorser could triple or even quadruple, Armin Meier, the chief executive officer of Swiss sports and entertainment marketing firm InfrontRingier said in a telephone interview.
“Also with Federer, you could see it took a while,” he said in a telephone interview.
While matching Federer’s earnings might be difficult, it isn’t deterring the Swiss from celebrating.
When Wawrinka emerged from the baggage claims area of the Geneva International Airport at about 1:20 p.m. local time on Jan. 28, he was met by a crush of local media and scores of cheering fans who rang over-sized cowbells.
Fur Trimmed Robe
Among the greeters was an emissary from Wawrinka’s home canton of Vaud wearing a traditional costume that included a fur trimmed robe in the cantonal colors of green and white. To reach a cordoned off area where he posed with the Australian Open trophy, Wawrinka had to be escorted by a phalanx of Swiss police officers who kept the crowd at bay.
Wawrinka is probably now the most important athlete ever from the canton of Vaud and is sure to win new sponsorship deals in Switzerland and abroad, said Philippe Leuba, state minister for the Vaud department of economy and sport, who was waiting for Wawrinka at the airport.
“He is now a world star in tennis,” Leuba said in an interview. “But his personality is so that that he will be the same. A small country like Switzerland has Wawrinka now and Federer. It is wonderful.”
Meantime, his hometown, which is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Lausanne, has big plans for a party.
“We will invite the entire town, his family and his sponsors,” said Dominique Dafflon, mayor of 16 years. “When he won the junior championship in Roland Garros we gave him a pen to sign many sponsorship contracts, which in fact he did.”
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