Japanese retailer UNIQLO has done something extremely interesting this week. By signing the world's number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, they are taking an affordable fashion brand into the serious sports arena.
There is a large demographic of people who require casual/athletic clothing but don't feel a connection to the heavily branded and 'serious' sportswear brands.
UNIQLO has always done practical clothing you could wear to the gym but now, with this signing, it steps it up to a new level and makes a fashion brand sporty and one to be taken seriously. Within this industry, we are used to the reverse, with collections that rarely connect with the style-focussed consumer, coming from the heavyweights of sportswear.
It's usually taken for granted that the majority of elite sports stars are signed by the likes of adidas or Nike. The five-year partnership will see Djokovic promoting the UNIQLO brand and UNIQLO clothing worldwide. The partnership will also include collaboration on future product lines, as well as co-developing the ultimate UNIQLO functional wear.
There is something very cool about wearing a brand for sport which isn't obvious and appeals to the fashion market. It doesn't really matter it's tennis or Djokovic, it's about playing ball and mixing up the dominant sportswear brands.