One step away from the men’s record for Grand Slam titles, world number and reconciled with the public at the last US Open, Novak Djokovic was undoubtedly better positioned than ever to seduce sponsors, before his Australian ‘soap opera’ (which ended with his deportation) clouded his image again.
(Setback for Djokovic: the tennis player has already left Australia).
The Serbian player received about 30 million dollars from his sponsors in 2021, according to the website of Forbes magazine.
However, his earnings, from sponsors, are less than those of Roger Federer (90 million), Serena Williams (40) and Naomi Osaka (55).
LACK OF CHARISMA?
After arriving later on the circuit than his great rivals Federer and Nadal, “Nole” has not had unanimity in the appreciation of spectators and players.
“There is the impression that maybe, he is not as nice as Federer or Nadal”, summarizes Patrick Rishe, professor of sports economics at Washington University in Saint Louis (Missouri).
“In the first place, they have been at the top for longer than Novak, and that makes them a little more special. And then, in addition to being great champions and playing great games, your attitude and what you do off the court is important”, the former Swedish champion Bjorn Borg had stated to the Marca newspaper, in 2020, to explain Djokovic’s popularity deficit against Federer and Nadal.
“I think that Rafa and Roger have done a great promotion of tennis”, he added.
(Novak Djokovic case: the tennis player was arrested again in Australia).
Although engaged in various charitable works, often available, and at the origin of the creation of a players’ union (the PTPA, in 2020), Novak Djokovic has seen how an individualist label was hung on him.
The rejection by the Australian authorities of a request for medical exemption by the Serb, as well as the admission, by the player, of not having respected isolation after having tested positive in December, “feed this reputation”, dear Patrick Rishe.
“This incident may prompt a brand that was perhaps planning a collaboration with him not to do so,” dice.
“THE VERY SHORT MEMORY”
“His image is going to be affected by this situation, since most of the tennis players who play this tournament have been vaccinated and have respected the rules,” adds Josh Schwartz, head of sports marketing at the US agency PIVOT.
“It is a pity”, if Patrick Rishe complains, “because he’s close to setting the record for Grand Slam wins. (…) And normally, when someone achieves that status, you think that’s going to lead to opportunities to have more sponsors. But I don’t imagine they will come up short term”.
Although Josh Schwartz does not see his current sponsors breaking his contract in the middle of a crisis or immediately after.
“Novak Djokovic is independent. We cannot comment on his decisions”, A spokeswoman for Swiss watchmaker Hublot, which began its collaboration with the player last year, told AFP.
“Hublot will continue its sponsorship with the number one in tennis”, he added.
For its part, the Austrian bank Raiffeisen was more enigmatic, recalling that its sponsorship with the champion of 20 Grand Slam titles dates back to “long before the information about the situation regarding Novak Djokovic’s vaccination and his participation in the Australian Open. As a sponsor, we are closely following the case.”
The risk of an eventual rupture turns against the brand that takes the initiative, since a not insignificant proportion of public opinion opposes the obligation to vaccinate. “It is a complicated situation”, admite Josh Schwartz.
“Legally, there has been no crime.” The previous cases of other athletes in a similar position have not greatly altered their relationship with their sponsors. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (American football) lost only one minor sponsor, Prevea Health, in early November following his equivocal remarks about vaccination.
The base of the Brooklyn Nets (basketball), Kyrie Irving, did not lose any after having denounced, in October, the obligation to vaccinate athletes in the state of New York and refused to receive an anti-Covid injection.
“As consumers we have a very short memory”, says Joe Favorite, a sports marketing specialist at Columbia University.