from Chicago Tribune.com
by George Lazarus
Stefan Edberg in a Wilson Pro Staff advertisement dating back to 1986
Wimbledon champ Stefan Edberg has indeed been one of those rarities in the megabucks endorsement craze of professional sports.
While rivals Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl have been pocketing low seven-figure dollars for rocketing serves with certain tennis rackets, Swede Edberg has been playing with a Wilson Pro Staff racket as a labor of love since 1984.
Edberg, now, at 24, the No. 1 ranked men's professional, has never been paid one cent by Wilson, the company headquartered in west suburban River Grove. The company merely has supplied all the rackets he wanted, no strings attached.
"Stefan just liked our racket," says a Wilson spokesperson, explaining the relationship, though it should be noted that the Swede does tout Adidas footwear, undoubtedly for a good piece of change, and there are other endorsements.
Stefan Edberg talks about his relationship with Wilson at a brand's event within the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne
Tied to that deal, Edberg will endorse Wilson rackets worldwide under a long-term agreement. The company declined to provide the compensation package, but it does involve dollars, for the first time.
What Stefan can do for Wilson is anybody's guess, though his court awareness and success should provide the company with a higher profile. Stefan follows such stars as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, who once commanded decent bucks for playing with the firm's rackets.
Aside from Edberg, there are few recognized players brandishing Wilson rackets, the list including the U.S. Davis Cup doubles team of Jim Pugh and Rick Leach, and Northwestern's amateur-turned-pro Todd Martin.
Wilson has promotional plans, still to be firmed up, for Edberg. "He'll be in the catalog and we'll no doubt be looking at advertising opportunities," says a Wilson spokesperson.
Nevertheless, despite the big packages paid tennis stars in past and present, endorsements have been suspect. For example, when McEnroe traded a Wilson for a Dunlop racket for a five-year, $3 million contract in the early 1980s, the Dunlop line reportedly didn't benefit much.
The trouble is that big endorsements trailed the tennis boom of the mid-1970s that no longer had much zip less than a decade later. Tennis racket sales, which peaked at 9 million units in 1975, totaled a paltry 2.63 million in 1989, something to remember as the U.S. Open unfolds the next two weeks.
In a still flat tennis racket market, increasing share points is the name of the game. Trailing industry leader Prince's 37 percent share, Wilson obviously hopes with Edberg officially on its side of court it can improve on its 23 percent share.
- Becker: I was sleeping during Wimbledon 1990 final
- Stefan Edberg at the Wilson stand
- Federer reveals Edberg's racket model
- No Zurich Open in 2013
- World class in Manavgat, the Wilson Senior Open
- Why Edberg never smiles
- Edberg, the unfinished peak - The frustrated of Bercy
- Unbeatable number two
- Edberg's unique accomplishment
- The child of fortune
- Edberg Comfortable at the Top
- Edberg's overtaking
- I ♥ France
- Stefanello's fall
- Edberg soon number one?