adidas and Novak Djokovic: The One That Got Away

When Novak Djokovic cut his ties with adidas in favour of agreeing a 10-year deal with Sergio Tacchini in November 2009, many saw the announcement as being no great loss. Particularly when you consider that a player of similar stature (at the time) Britain’s Andy Murray signed a long-term, multi-million pound deal with adidas shortly after. Since that point however, the man they call ‘Nole’ has been formidable, blitzing all those that come before him, winning Grand Slam titles in the process and building a huge global following. In contrast, Andy Murray has now lost in three Grand Slam finals, and until recently has been struggling for form, casting doubt over his potential to achieve his ultimate ambition of winning a major championships.

For now however, the focus has to be on Djokovic and indeed Sergio Tacchini. The Chinese-owned brand has quite rightly bombarded the homepage of its central website with images of the tennis superstar, highlighting his position as global ambassador, referencing his third Australian Open win and even launching his own clothing line. A recent post I published on the Insight Sport blog touched upon the benefits of sponsors of major sporting events such as the Olympic Games aligning themselves with a portfolio of athletes as opposed to ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ so to speak and focusing on one specific athlete – for a company the size of Sergio Tacchini it has little choice.

With an annual revenue of less than $50 million, the sportswear brand is reliant on Djokovic continuing his excellent form, whilst it can also fall back on his long term tennis heritage, having sponsored players such as John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Martina Hingis and Goran Ivanisevic in past times. In comparison, the likes of adidas and Nike are in a different league, with both sponsoring a number of high profile tennis stars across the men’s and women’s games. And with Nike recording revenues of $2.55 billion and the adidas $4.7 billion in Q3, 2011. At this point, one can only wonder at the impact Novak Djokovic could have had as an ambassador for adidas should it have retained the World Number one as an ambassador.

However all is not lost…

Adopting a long-term perspective, should Britain’s number one win a Grand Slam – he is showing signs of improvement under new coach Ivan Lendl – the effect could go beyond that of his close friend and nemesis. Given his nationality and the popularity of tennis in the UK, his appeal would reach out not only across his homeland, but also globally, given his delay in achieving what many say is his destiny. Djokovic meanwhile has hit his mesmeric heights now, there is evidence to suggest that Murray is slowly closing the gap, whilst Djokovic’s relatively small home market of Serbia is not one of significant importance to the adidas brand.

For now, one thing is clear, Djokovic is the driving force in men’s tennis, and deserves the accolades he is receiving, and Sergio Tacchini is revelling in his successes. Until Andy Murray wins a Slam, adidas must simply face up to the fact that they missed a trick in releasing Djokovic, although should that day arrive where Murray comes face to face with destiny, expect adidas to turn around and give a big ‘I told you so’ in the direction of those who doubted.

By Andreas Plastiras

Check out Andreas’ blog Snap Shot Sport

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