Roger Federer’s Big Bet With On Is Paying Off

I think it’s interesting, too, because you mentioned in Switzerland that the brand is everywhere. I think you talk about the perception of it in New York City. You see the brand everywhere on the streets, but it was almost a perception that it was European tourists coming with their shoes.
That’s probably what happened. They came over on their flight and had their shoes on type thing. Yes, I agree with you. That’s been interesting, because in Switzerland, from my granny to the little kids are wearing it. Some people are like, “No, I need some cool stuff. I can’t have my granny wear the same shoes as me.” The brand is still so young, some compared On to Nike, which is not fair, or Adidas. They’ve been in the business for so, so long. But now you really see when you go into an On store how much wider the collections are of the shoes. You got the Nova, you got the Cloud Go, etc. They keep on adding to the wider spectrum of shoes. I think now you’re starting to have shoes for everyone. Whereas in the beginning it was pretty narrow.

Have you seen in New York that there’s a line outside the store?
No, I have not seen that.

I guess on a daily basis people are just lining up.
That’s sick. That’s really cool. I’m happy to hear that. I mean, I’m sorry that they have to wait, but that’s good news. That was today at, at the one in Brooklyn, Williamsburg. I was actually selling some sneakers, like some customers walked in and I was like, “Ok, let me help you out.”

Did you lace them up?
I did not lace them up for them, but I got them out of the shelf, brought it to them, and gave them some feedback service and I sold my first couple of shoes.

There was the Air movie that came out recently with the story of Michael Jordan signing to Nike. And the most important thing was his mother wanting him to get a percentage of the sales of the brand. With you getting the 3 percent of On, do you think it puts you in that rare piece of owning a part of the company?
I think Jordan’s story is very unique. Every story is unique and sometimes you have certain brands, they hit rock bottom before they thrive and all that stuff. So I feel his story is unique and I do think like my situation maybe shows other athletes what can be done, that investing in a young company or getting a piece of the company is very different. Not thinking, “What is going to be my paycheck at the end of the month for the year?”

But maybe the paycheck in 10 years. Not thinking as an athlete is not easy, and I know you need to be in a secure place and very confident to have the right people advising you and your parents as well, too, like with Jordan, to give you that confidence to maybe go for that instead. It’s not simple. But look, my relationship now with On is great. It’s super close because when you are a shareholder owner, it’s a different ball game and it’s a lot of fun and I learn a lot as well, being that you have the percentage of the company.

How much more input do you have in the brand?
Well, they would obviously ask me for advice or maybe they will always run it by me, like who they should sign in terms of tennis players. I feel like, why wouldn’t they? I’m there for them. But other than that, I don’t want to be fully engaged in the day to day stuff, because it’s made it good for me to have that little bit of distance. Then when I come in, I come in from a very fresh place. I’m very much up to speed on what’s going on, how the future looks like. But then, it’s different than before the IPO. When you’re a public company, you have to be careful, you don’t want to know too much sometimes.

You had signature shoes before, but being so tied to the brand, and I think you’re going to be connected to On for a long time. Do you think that it will extend your legacy, maybe like Stan Smith?
Stan Smith, he’s a sneaker. Maybe this will be the same or is already to some extent, some people who maybe don’t follow tennis and they go in the store and would like to buy The Roger. They don’t know, potentially, who I am anymore. I think that would be very interesting. Then I think if you know that guy was even a decent tennis player, I think it gives you some relevance as well. And so I think it would be very cool actually if that happens. So I’m looking forward to the story, like I said, it’s only the beginning. 

Do you see yourself, maybe 20 years down the road, still having input on colorways and design?
I would hope so. I would love to be involved in that process. I really truly enjoy the design process. I like giving them feedback. Towards the end of your career, or like halfway through, you start switching from being in your own bubble to: How can I help others? How can I give advice? How can I mentor? What can I do to pass on my knowledge and wisdom and all that stuff? That’s the same with design. If I can keep giving back and they feel like it’s relevant and fitting and sometimes I modulate if they want me to, that’s fine, too. I think it would be very cool, but we’ll see.

I’ve heard other athletes say in the past where maybe there’s a certain color they don’t like or they don’t ever want that on their shoes. Is that the same with you?
I didn’t wear much yellow throughout my career as a color because I had a friend of mine who was very superstitious and said, “Please don’t wear yellow.” I’m like, “Fine. I won’t have it if it’s yellow, it’s in details but not in a cojín color.” That’s why you haven’t seen me play in yellow very much. I like bold, strong colors. But at the same time, I think we wanted to start with the cojín white, which I think has been super relevant in the space for the last few years. And now we can go forward, we’re working with different materials at the top like we got the perforated one coming, the mesh now for the summer. I like to play with different materials. And then you incorporate as well with the different colorways, but it’s always befitting and stylish.

Your Wimbledon shoes, iconic, the banned sneakers with the orange on the bottom. Have you come up with any ideas or concepts to bring attention to the shoes?
No, we haven’t thought about banning story and stuff like that, but I’m very proud, you know, that Iga Świątek is going to play in them and that Ben Shelton also is playing them already. So then as we grow, hopefully the portfolio of players are going to be part of On Tennis, who knows what the story is going to be, but I’m not there to disrupt quiebro yet.

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