The Laver Cup, Roger Federer’s latest contribution to tennis, is enjoying much of the same sponsorship success as the man who founded it.
Named after the Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, the only tennis player to win the calendar-year Grand Slam twice, the tournament was created by Federer and his agent Tony Godsick, the president and CEO of TEAM8, back in 2017. This Davis Cup-meets-Ryder Cup event has quickly gained both fan and brand interest.
The fourth edition of the event, which kicks off Friday in Boston’s TD Garden, will be without top players Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for the first time, but ticket sales were still beyond expectations. “The capacity of the arena drives the attendance in any event year,” Godsick said. “This year’s venue is one of the most iconic arenas in the world, with great sports history.” According to Godsick, they had a healthy demand for tickets—“a near sell-out every session,” he said—but they have also added a new pay-per-view offering at LaverCup.com, where fans in more than 150 territories will be able to watch the tournament live and on-demand for $6.99.
With black-painted courts and stage lights, the Laver Cup is an unusual tournament, and the unique format is a big draw for fans and sponsors. The three-day tournament brings together 12 top male tennis players—divided into two teams, Team Europe and Team World—to compete against each other. Unlike at ATP events, captains and the team are on the court's sidelines during the match. Their conversations are audible and televised. Team captains submit their lineups blindly, and scoring is tricky: Matches are worth one point the first day, two on the second day, and it goes up to three on the final day.
Beyond the court, the event is a tremendous brand-building device for Federer and tennis. “First, this allows Federer to associate himself with the next and previous generations of stars,” said Dave Wakeman, president of Wakeman Consulting Group.
It also brings the game to locations where some top players may not usually play, like Prague, Chicago, Geneva or Boston. “This creates a halo effect around him that pushes his brand out in all directions," Wakeman said.
This year, On, the Swiss sneaker brand Federer started endorsing in 2019, and Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing company he ditched Nike for in 2018 for 10 years and $300 million, joined the tournament's founding partners: Rolex, Credit Suisse and Mercedes. Moet & Chandon, UPS, Marriott Bonvoy, Head and Gevalia were also signed as new sponsors. Steve Furgals’ Tennis Tours is the official travel partner of the event. The Laver Cup's potential impact in Boston is estimated to include $50 million in direct spending, according to Wakeman.
Federer, arguably the most successful brand ambassador in tennis, is one of a few athletes to make $1 billion during his playing career. His effectiveness as a pitchman is unparalleled, Wakeman said, when evaluating Federer's strength in three areas, what Wakeman calls the “Brand Triangle”—awareness, meaning and impression.
"On awareness, Federer is possibly the most well-known tennis player of all time, hitting the mainstream even in the U.S., where tennis players don't always have as much brand impact due to the relative lack of popularity of tennis compared to team sports,” Wakeman said. “On brand impression, Federer's brand is focused on world-class products, world-class performance and simplicity. This comes through in the partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Lindt chocolates. “
To finish the triangle, Wakeman asked people their impressions of Federer as a brand and a player. "Consistently, I got back world-class, champion, accessible and real,” he said. “Which makes the Uniqlo partnership work well. This has made Federer's brand boom, and his business decisions look great."
The Laver Cup is seeing its broadcast footprint grow, as well. In addition to the Tennis Channel, which airs the event in the U.S., and ESPN International, which carries it in Latin America and the Caribbean, the tournament signed a 10-year agreement with Eurosport's parent company, Discovery, Inc., to televise the matches across most of Europe through 2030. (BeIN Sports maintains rights in France and Turkey.)
“This year’s coverage will be captured by up to 40 cameras, including a variety of specialty cams,” Godsick said. “The production will also feature 20 robotic cameras, providing unrivaled access to player and team areas, behind the scenes and player benches. An advanced augmented reality graphics package will be a feature throughout the feeds, including innovative in-match graphics and live AR, plus the exclusive GCam providing statistical court overlays.”