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Lifestyle: When brand endorsements go wrong

by Michael Weare
27 June, 2013
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email:

Federer's banned Nike Vapor 9 Tour shoes


Golden boy

Roger Federer winning Wimbledon

This is the picture Roger Federer so desperately wanted us all to see; smiling confidently, wearing his Rolex, having just clinched yet another Wimbledon championship. But having spectacularly crashed out of Wimbledon yesterday to little known Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, Roger will probably want to blame his surprise loss on his last minute enforced shoe change.

You see Roger is Swiss, and very much like a Swiss watch, for everything to function properly every last tiny detail has to be precisely right. Where Swiss watchmakers measure down to the last micron to create the perfect watch movement, Roger plans down to the last detail what his Wimbledon ensemble will be.

Federer's outfit white with orange piping

This year the theme was white with orange piping, even on the racquet head. Part of that theme was also his Nike white Vapor 9 Tour shoes with orange soles. But these met with the disapproval of the All England Club after his first round victory against Victor Hanescu, and he was told to change them for white soled shoes. Suddenly with the co-ordination gone from his ensemble, Federer’s legendary co-ordination and concentration on court went with it.

Federer's enforced shoe change

You would have thought, considering Nike are paying Federer $6.5m a year to wear their clothes and shoes, that a Nike flunky might have thought to run the shoes by the All England Club for approval first, but no, they didn’t and this is probably the closest Roger has come to looking like a bad boy at Wimbledon in his entire career. Not that it hurt Nike in any way. They ‘soled out’ of the orange soled Nike Vapor 9 Tour shoes within 48 hours.

Federer’s image as being flawlessly presented, calm, polite and in control took what for him was seen as a dent. Like discovering a key scratch all along your gleaming black Porsche Turbo, this was enough to ruin Federer’s mood and put him entirely off his stroke. At one point he was so frustrated he even slammed a ball at Stakhovsky, forcing him to duck. Federer apologised, but it was a definite sign that his customary cool had been lost.

So Federer had a bad day at Wimbledon, but he will live to fight another day. His image as the consummate professional will continue. He is after all, a major watch brand’s dream. Not just supremely skilled, but articulate, dependable, immaculately presented, and above all a devoted family man with absolutely no hint of scandal. This is why so many women and all his prestigious endorsers adore him.

Bad boy

Roscoe Tanner

From one of the most sought after brand ambassadors tennis has ever known, to a former tennis legend who these days couldn’t get a brand to endorse him if he paid them.

If Federer is the good boy of tennis, meet the bad boy. And I’m not talking about John McEnroe. While McEnroe might have had a bad temper on court, he never went off the rails off court. That was left to one Roscoe Leonard Tanner. Martin Scorsese should make a movie about Tanner’s life. It’s one of the most unusual stories in any sport.

To use the old cliché, Tanner had it all; a privileged, wealthy background, tall, blonde, athletic playboy good looks, and a killer serve of 153 miles per hour. Only Andy Roddick has ever served faster, and that was with a modern racquet. One can only imagine what speed of serve Tanner could achieve with a modern racquet were he still at his peak.

Roscoe Tanner and Converse

Although the only endorsements Tanner has ‘enjoyed’ in recent years are for DUI, he was once an early brand ambassador for Converse Shoes. In fact Tanner helped to usher in modern day sporting goods endorsements by professional athletes.

Roscoe Tanner in action

At his peak Tanner was the number four player in the world. He had an epic final against Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1979, but eventually lost in five sets. In 1982 an injury to his elbow took the edge off his serve, and everything seemed to go downhill from there. In fact the golden boy fell from grace in a way only OJ Simpson has managed to outdo.

Perhaps the seeds of Tanner’s downfall were his carefree womanising, gambling and alcohol consumption, all the things Federer does not do. In the past two decades Tanner has seen more legal courts than he has ever seen tennis courts, and the only thing being served are jail sentences for a string of misdemeanours. He has gone from the Grand Slam to the slammer on several occasions. His philandering ways resulted in three broken marriages and five daughters to support by four women.

In 1993, he had a brief affair with an escort girl he called to his hotel room one night on tour in New Jersey. The woman became pregnant and Tanner denied paternity. She took him to court in 1994 and the baby was determined to be his. Tanner agreed to a $500,000 payment, but never paid.

In 1995, he bought 130 acres of land near his hometown to build Tanner Tennis Lodge – a 140-room lodge that would have a restaurant, bar, spa, lake for fishing and indoor tennis courts.

Tanner mugshot

He told local newspapers that Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors would play exhibitions there, but construction never even started and Tanner eventually sold the land to pay off debts.

In 1996, a judge ordered Tanner to pay the escort $1,000 a month, and again he did nothing. In 1997, he was arrested in the middle of a doubles match in Naples, Florida, and released when he made a $40,000 back payment.

With his luxurious lifestyle rapidly disintegrating, Tanner started to write bad cheques. He wrote one to Florida yacht salesman Gene Gammon for $39,000 for a yacht, but Tanner’s personal cheque bounced and Gammon never saw the boat again – Gammon tracked Tanner across the internet and eventually had him jailed.

Over the years Tanner has fled from alimony and child support payments, repayments on loans, payments for bad cheques, and squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment money given to him by numerous investors in various projects, including the proposed 130-acre Tanner Tennis Lodge in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Roscoe Tanner Tennis Club in San Fernando Valley.

Roscoe Tanner mugshot

As recently as March of this year he has been hauled up in front of a court again to face charges of writing yet another bad cheque, despite claiming to have found Christ and having changed his ways. Several millions of dollars have passed through his hands and massive debt  still threatens to engulf him. Would you let this man endorse your watch brand?

It kind of puts Federer’s bad day at Wimbledon into perspective.

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email:

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