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Style Points: Boutique labels, fashion houses mark a trendy move in 2022 kit deals
Are tennis players joining a growing number of athletes moving away from big-name traditional brands?
Published Jan 06, 2022
WATCH: Tennis Channel Live surfs the internet to catch up on the latest tennis news.
Who wore what? Style Points breaks down the latest collabs, kits and fashion statements from around the tennis world.
Hugo Boss had never sponsored a tennis player before they named Matteo Berrettini, the Italian world No. 7, as the global face of BOSS this past December. It’s one of several notable sponsorship moves recently made by top players—and it’s another sign of a growing trend in sports, as athletes move away from traditional tennis brands like Nike and adidas and toward boutique labels, fashion houses and affordable retailers.
Berrettini, who enjoyed a big boost in 2021 when he reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, had previously been outfitted by Lotto before making the switch during the off-season. He also announced the launch of a capsule collection, BOSS x Berrettini, with a charitable slant.
But he’s not the only player who has courted a luxury label. Chile’s Cristian Garin also made his own big move during the off-season, with his nearly decade-long relationship with adidas coming to an end as he signed a kit deal with Emporio Armani. He joins the likes of Fabio Fognini, retired Flavia Pennetta and Veronika Kudermetova at the Italian fashion label.
Gael Monfils also made a notable switch as he announced the end of two decade-long relationships with sponsors Asics and Wilson to sign with French retailer Decathlon. The French player will wear Artego, the retailer’s in-house brand, on the court.
"It's cool to work with a 100% French brand," Monfils told Le Parisien. “I find it cool, when I am nearing the end of my career, to bring my thoughts and coolify the brand.”
On the women’s side, K-Swiss player Ajla Tomljanovic took to the court in Adelaide wearing a brand new outfit with head to toe Penguin logos. This marks the first move into tennis for Penguin, an American sportswear line.
Leylah Annie Fernandez, who wore Asics during her giant-slaying US Open final run last year, has been spotted wearing Lululemon during her opening matches in Adelaide. She joins Daria Gavrilova in wearing the Canadian luxury sportswear brand on court, with the Aussie also departing Asics since the beginning of last year.
These moves are just a few potential examples of what has become a larger movement in sports sponsorships, with several individual and Olympic sports athletes foregoing the exposure and prestige of traditional sponsorship names. Last year, American Olympians Allyson Felix and Simone Biles both made waves after departing from Nike to Athleta, Gap’s activewear offshoot.
That’s in part because big exposure also can come at a big price: the top brands like Nike and adidas regularly write “reduction” clauses into their contracts. These clauses allow sponsors to dock pay when athletes don’t meet certain performance metrics, attend competitions or fulfill other endorsement quotas—even if they are injured. In an individual sport like tennis, where players are frequently responsible for their own finances, pay cuts can end up affecting staffing and travel decisions. A sponsor with a smaller stable of athletes can also provide more one-on-one attention that individual athletes crave.
“It’s a very pressured situation to be sponsored traditionally in track and field — it’s about numbers if you don’t perform, reductions and all of these things,” Felix said in an interview last year. “[With Athleta], I felt like I had more value as a person, and that was something I hadn’t experienced before.”
Also of note, the 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin has hit the court in Adelaide seemingly without a kit sponsor, after three years with South Korea’s Fila. The American has been wearing a white skirt and visor with a contrasting orange top by Free People Movement during singles and doubles.
Other players who switched sponsors heading into 2022 include Ugo Humbert, who is now outfitted by Lacoste after having previously worn Wilson, Marton Fucsovics, who switched from Hungarian streetwear label Dorko (DRK) to Hydrogen and Yulia Putintseva, who joined team K-Swiss. Rising Dane Clara Tauson, who was formerly with Yonex, was spotted in adidas during her matches in Melbourne. The 19-year-old also made strides on the court last year, winning two WTA titles and sitting inside the Top 50.