Milos Raonic made major strides as the youngest man in the ATP year-end Top 20 last year, and he’s starting the new year by taking a significant sponsorship step.
Raonic has signed a multi-year, head-to-toe apparel and footwork pact with New Balance, and will show off the gear today when he takes on Jan Hajek in his Australian Open first-rounder. It marks the first time New Balance has sponsored a Top 50 player.
The 15th-ranked Canadian, who wore Lacoste clothes last year (is it me or did the sleeves on those Lacoste polos look too short for Raonic's long arms?), is scheduled to wear the New Balance apparel he’s wearing in the photo above and a pair of white-and-green New Balance 996 sneakers. He made his New Balance tournament debut at the Brisbane International earlier this month.
Currently, Raonic is wearing clothes custom-made for him. New Balance says its working with the 22-year-old Raonic to launch a new "tennis-focused collection of footwear and apparel in August 2013, just before the U.S. Open gets underway." As the global brand amassador for the brand's tennis line, Raonic will star in New Balance’s print, online and in-store ad campaigns.
New Balance has built a reputation for stable, comfortable, and reliable shoes (New Balance's durability warranty is one of the best in the industry) in a variety of widths and largely conservative styles. Those qualities make it the shoe of choice for many older recreational players, but gaining traction with kids and fans of the pro game has been a challenge. Raonic gives New Balance instant global Grand Slam visbility. If he makes a run in Melbourne wearing the 996—a more aggressive-looking shoe than some of the brand's blander entries of years past—it could build buzz with the younger set, important for any aspiring major player.