Before it used to be all about Nike, Adidas and other distinguished brands, but now the world of tennis fashion is much more versatile and many recognized players are wearing new and smaller brands. The most famous example of a top tennis name signing with an emerging brand is Novak Djokovic's contract with Uniqlo, but also on the women's side we have Svetlana Kuznetsova who left Fila for Qiaodan, and previously Jelena Jankovic who switched from Reebok to Anta (now she's with Fila).
However some smaller brands decide to invest in the promising players and try to take their slice of the pie in that way, by securing deals at low prices while players are still young. The most successful this year's story of an emerging brand in tennis supporting a newcomer was Sloane Stephens and her clothing sponsor Under Armour.
The 20-year-old Stephens had a breakthrough season with a near-Top 10 finish and her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in January, after which she made her Top 20 debut. All the success came in the fourth year of her five-year deal with Under Armour which she signed as a junior prospect.
The clothing and footware sponsorship pays Stephens about $100,000 per year, but that amount will surely increase if they negotiate a new long-term agreement.
"She took a little risk on us," said Matt Mirchin, senior vice president of marketing for Under Armour. "We weren't a noted tennis brand. We made special shoes for her."
Another aspect of the story which makes Under Armour's cooperation with Sloane extra lucrative is that the US was hungry for a top WTA player aside from the Williams sisters.
Moreover, the brand's lively colors perfectly suit Stephen's youth, energy and complexion. I myself am a fan of dynamic contrasts in sports clothes, especially when someone pulls it off as well as Stephens.
And the plait headband is a perfect accessory, unique to Stephens!
What do you think of Stephens' style? Do you like how she works Under Armour?
Also, do you like it that the world of tennis fashion is less and less dominated by major brands and that we have a lot of smaller companies finding their place on the market?
Besides Stephens and Under Armour, which similar partnership would you point out? For me, the first comes to mind the cooperation between German Mona Barthel and American brand Denise Cronwall, which I reviewed on my blog on several occasions.
Visit our fashion retrospections to see what other WTA players were wearing in 2013, in particular: Ana Ivanovic (Adidas), Caroline Wozniacki (Stella McCartney), Maria Sharapova (Nike), Bethanie Mattek Sands, Serena Williams (Nike) and Venus Williams (EleVen). (photos: wadjin, © Neal Trousdale, Colombia Tennis, Hector Iribarne, Sneak Report, Mustapha Ousellam, JJ Tennis, Ralf Reinecke)