Paul Howell
Jan 27, 2012

Uniqlo cashing in on Kei Nishikori's Australian Open success

TOKYO - The event still has a few days to run but the biggest winner from this year's Australian Open tennis championship may well be Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo, whose sponsorship of Kei Nishikori is already seeing strong results.

An overnight sensation in Japan, Kei Nishikori wears Uniqlo on court
An overnight sensation in Japan, Kei Nishikori wears Uniqlo on court

Nishikori entered the tournament ranked 26 in the world, but his defeat of Jo Wilfried-Tsonga (ranked sixth) is likely to catapult him even higher. It was the first time a Japanese player has entered the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and Nishikori is already Japan's highest-ever ranked player.

That success is already translating into marketing goals for Nishikori's clothing sponsor, Uniqlo.

Nishikori signed up to be the brand's ambassador in January last year, promising to wear its label during all competitions. He also had a deal with Sony, but this expired toward the end of last year without being renewed by the brand.

A brand spokesperson said Uniqlo was getting “a lot of requests—more than ever” from consumers seeking to buy the shirts, shorts, and hats Nishikori wore during his defeat of Wilfried-Tsonga, and his follow up quarterfinal match against the UK's Andy Murray. That match, which Murray won, was broadcast live in Japan, adding an estimated 50 million viewers to its worldwide audience.

"The ripple effects for sponsors when athletes do well are huge,” Toshihiro Nagahama of Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research Institute told Bloomberg. “The marketing effect of this endorsement is worth tens of billions of yen."

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