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Off The Court, Federer Is Trumped

Roger Federer might be the greatest tennis player ever, but he’s hardly at the top of the list in the sports endorsement world.

Sure, NetJets ran a commercial after his record-tying 14th slam this weekend, but he likely can’t be traced back to any business for the fractional jet service.

Sure, Gillette and Nike ran congratulatory ads in papers today, but Federer is really the third cog in the razor spots after Tiger and Jeter. And Nike doesn’t even mass produce much of the special gear that Federer wears.

But before you fault the “Swiss Dismisser” himself, understand that his lack of appeal is somewhat beyond his control. Why isn't Fed a big fish in the world of pitching?

Nationalism. Sure, Americans root for Federer, but more Americans would root for him if he were American. It’s just how we’ve been brought up to cheer for our tennis champions.

Relevancy. Except for a couple weeks in late August and early September, Americans – for the most part - don’t care about tennis. Want evidence? Look at the lack of demand. Many of the good French Open matches were even on live broadcast television. Despite his dominance, the Davie-Brown Index poll reflects that Americans are significantly less aware of Federer’s name than names like Derek Jeter, John McEnroe, Larry Bird and Tiger Woods.

Personality. Federer is a great athlete, but he’s not eccentric. In order for a tennis star to break out, they have to hit a certain excitement meter. Look to Connors, McEnroe and Agassi as those who accomplished that and guys like Sampras and Courier who weren’t as known to non-tennis fans.

Relationship. Nearly all the male tennis stars who were able to gain notoriety in this country have had relationships with other famous people: Jimmy Connors with Chris Evert, John McEnroe with Tatum O’Neal, Andy Roddick was dating Mandy Moore and is now married to model Brooklyn Decker. The most marketable tennis star was Andre Agassi and he dated Barbra Streisand and Brooke Shields before marrying tennis great Steffi Graf. Federer’s wife is Mirka Vavrinec, a former top 100 women’s tennis player whose name alone wouldn’t ring a bell with the most avid of tennis fans.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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