Federer, the ideal ambassador
Roger Federer – the man and his game – embody reliability and excellence, which are also associated with Switzerland. He also projects an image of a modern and open Switzerland. In 2019 he reached the landmark of 100 career titles. Experts share their views on Federer's international role.
Swiss Tennis President René Stammbach believes that Roger Federer is Switzerland's best ambassador abroad, using an anecdote to illustrate the point: "I recently found myself in a small, remote village in Argentina while on a personal trip. When people heard I was Swiss, they mentioned Federer rather than watches or chocolate. No one is better at selling Switzerland abroad."
Swiss Tourism spokesperson Véronique Kanel agrees wholeheartedly. "Although Federer gives the appearance of effortlessness, he stands for reliability, perseverance and hard work. He has international appeal and promotes a positive image of a modern, easygoing and open Switzerland."
Seeing him play one last time
Roger Federer, who is from Basel, broke through the historic 100 tournament barrier last year at 37 years of age. There were chaotic scenes outside one of his matches in Dubai, when Federer's public support was at an all-time high. "People wanted to see him at all costs, because they knew that given his age this might be their last chance. Federer is nothing short of a living legend," comments Mathieu Aeschmann, a sports journalist for Tamedia newspapers.
According to historian Dominique Dirlewanger, who has written a book about the Swiss, there is an obvious association between Federer and Switzerland as they embody similar values. "Rigour and discipline combined with discretion. Federer is every inch the family man and dotes on this twin sons and daughters. In addition, he always remains true to his image, coming across as cool, stylish and relaxed. Federer brings all his experience to bear on court, showing that age can be an asset."
Grégory Quin, Senior Lecturer in Sports Studies at the University of Lausanne, sees a genuine connection between Federer's image, the precision of his game and the Swiss values his sponsors seek to promote. "Six of Federer's twelve sponsors are Swiss and play up this link in their publicity. A Lindt chocolate advertising campaign, for example, claims Roger Federer as an ambassador for Swiss quality and excellence. For Credit Suisse, Federer is a global icon who epitomises the bank's ethos of excellence and determination, while Rolex highlights the gracefulness of his game and refined elegance."
According to Jean-Philippe Danglade, professor of marketing at Kedge Business School, Federer is more than just a champion – he has become a brand: "Fame and a personal image are needed to build a brand and Federer has both these attributes. He epitomises elegance, staying power, reliability and continuity."
In 2018, TIME magazine again included Roger Federer in its '100 Most Influential People' list, with a personal tribute penned by Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates. The two men became friends when they played doubles together at a 'Match for Africa' exhibition match. In the TIME tribute, Bill Gates notes that Federer seems exempt from the laws of ageing in a sport that requires discipline. "He's still winning grand slams with a combination of grace and grit. It will be a sad day for all of us fans when he hangs up his racket."
Countless politicians, artists and intellectuals from around the world have expressed their admiration for this exceptional champion, including Vogue editor and high priestess of fashion Anna Wintour, who is also one of Federer's friends. "I have flown across the world for his tournaments. I’ve endured agony when he’s been a set down and ecstasy when he’s stormed back. Everyone calls themselves Roger Federer fans. I consider myself a groupie."
An insatiable hunger to win, combined with class and a sense of fair play, is what the Federer brand is all about. Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus once joked that you need to dislike Federer to have an outside chance of beating him, but that no one can.
Adulation in Asia
Federer is famous throughout the globe, but he is arguably most revered in Asia. Aside from his game, Federer is admired for his demeanour, good manners and humility – values that his Asian fans hold dear. Federer has never been involved in scandal or controversy or been accused of tastelessness.
In July 2018, the 20-times Grand Slam champion ditched Nike, which had been supplying his kit for 20 years, and signed a 10-year, USD 300 million endorsement deal with leading Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo. As Uniqlo’s global creative director, John C. Jay, explained to the Wall Street Journal, "The collaboration is much bigger than sports. There's a certain level of being discreet and private that we cherish and is totally consistent with our values." Uniqlo is counting on Federer to boost its global brand recognition with a view to overtaking Zara and H&M in South East Asia, especially in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Although Federer is a global star, he has always stayed loyal to his country, which is vital to his image as an ambassador for Switzerland. The Lindt advertising campaign capitalised on Federer's Swiss roots and the country he calls home.
Although Federer has a home in Dubai, he also owns a house in Valbella in the canton of Graubünden and has purchased a prime plot of land in Rapperswil, with direct access to Lake Zurich, where he intends to build a new home for his family. "While some French players have been criticised for leaving France for tax reasons, Federer has always stayed true to his roots. Because he also speaks very good French, he also has a large fan base in Western Switzerland," comments Grégory Quin.
Loyal to Switzerland
In 2016, when Roger Federer was unable to play tennis due to a back injury and missed the Olympic Games in Rio, he posted photos of himself on Twitter hiking in the Appenzell mountains against a backdrop of cows, streams and snow-capped peaks, tweeting "Missing the US Open but having an amazing time enjoying the Swiss Mountains." "Free publicity for Switzerland," says Véronique Kanel from Swiss Tourism. "Roger Federer has multitudes of followers. It's hard to imagine better publicity than seeing Roger hiking through the Swiss countryside."
Despite his global fame, Federer is still strongly attached to his hometown of Basel, where his family lives. He still supports football club FC Basel and can often be seen at the St. Jakob-Park stadium when he is back home. He has also won the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel no fewer than nine times, including the last two titles. Federer always finds time in his hectic schedule to play the Swiss Indoors tournament, allowing him to touch base with fans, his hometown and family. As Mathieu Aeschmann puts it: "there are two highlights in the tennis season for Federer – returning to Centre Court to defend his title at Wimbledon and making his 6pm entrance at the Swiss Indoors tournament. This has become a set ritual every year, with the speaker introducing the 'greatest player of all time' and welcoming Federer home, eliciting a standing ovation from an appreciative home crowd."
A proud Swiss with style and intelligence, Roger Federer is Switzerland's best ambassador bar none.