NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal will be stripping down to his underwear again.
Tommy Hilfiger Corp. has signed Nadal to serve as global brand ambassador for the Tommy Hilfiger underwear and Tommy Hilfiger tailored collections. The 28-year-old tennis star, who has signed a two-year agreement with Hilfiger, will be photographed in Spain early next year and will appear in the fall underwear and tailored clothing ad campaigns. Laird & Partners will create the ads that will run in print, online and on billboards worldwide. The photographer hasn’t been confirmed yet. In addition, Nadal will attend exclusive Hilfiger launch events in North America, Europe and Asia.
This is the second underwear modeling gig for Nadal for a major fashion brand. In 2011, he appeared with Megan Fox in steamy ads for Emporio Armani Underwear and Armani Jeans.
Industry sources estimate Nadal’s two-year Hilfiger deal could be worth $3 million to $4 million. Hilfiger officials declined comment.
Nadal has won 14 Grand Slam titles and is ranked number three in the ATP rankings. The Spanish tennis pro has struggled with various injuries, including a wrist injury that sidelined him from the U.S. Open in August. He had season-ending appendicitis surgery in November. Nadal is training and has confirmed he will participate in the 2015 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi from Jan. 1 to Jan. 3 and the Argentina Open in February.
“Rafael Nadal has been a longtime personal friend and supporter of our brand, and I’m continuously inspired by his dedication and passion for his sport,” Hilfiger said. He said he originally met Nadal in Monaco during the Monte Carlo Grand Slam about eight years ago. He and his entourage have been wearing Hilfiger’s clothes for some time.
“We believe the underwear business can be a huge business for us,” said Hilfiger, noting that the business has been underdeveloped at the company. Hilfiger has a strong tailored clothing business, both in the U.S. and Europe, he said. “We want to take it to a new level with performance fabrics, slimmer suits and more sophisticated tailoring. We’ve become very serious about the tailored clothing business,” said the designer.
The U.S. tailored clothing collection is licensed to Marcraft. The global tailored clothing collection is produced in-house. The tailored collection includes suits, sport coats, furnishings and ties. Both underwear and tailored collections are sold at Tommy Hilfiger stores globally, through select wholesale partners and online at tommy.com.
Asked whether Nadal will have an input into the collection’s design, Hilfiger said, “He’ll tell us what he likes and doesn’t like. He’s talking to us about what kind of fit he likes and the fabric.”
Nadal, who has a contract with Nike to wear the brand during his tournaments, also has deals with Bacardi, Richard Mille, Quely and Kia Motors.
Hilfiger said he expects that Nadal will wear the Hilfiger clothing during his free time. “Whenever he wears a suit, he’ll wear our suit. All of our suits are now elevated. We have new fabrics and details and all sorts of innovation. The styles are for comfort and a man on the go,” he said.
Hilfiger believes the company will benefit from Nadal’s global recognition.
“If you go to countries like India, China and Japan, tennis is enormous. There are fanatics and fans that don’t watch American sports, but they watch tennis,” he said. “The international sports fan watches tennis. The schedule is so rigorous. He’s playing every week.” Hilfiger said the tour takes Nadal all over the world and he’ll represent the brand worldwide. This is the first time Hilfiger has had a major global athlete under contract.
“I’ve always admired Tommy Hilfiger’s cool, all-American designs which are sophisticated and easy to wear, and I’m excited to be partnering with the brand,” Nadal said.
WWD interviewed Nadal last year, when he described his style off the court as “classic,” which would be a good match for Hilfiger.
“I’m a classic guy. I like to wear jeans, polo shirt, normally. To go out, it depends on the situation, or if I am in the winter or I am in the summer, no? If I am in the winter I like to wear jeans, shirt and jacket. If I am in summer, I like jeans and T-shirt or jeans and polo. Classic,” he said. However, on the court, Nadal’s true colors come out. “[On the] court, I am not that classic. Court is a little bit different. I like the bright colors. I like the powerful colors on court,” he said.
Born in Manacor, Spain, Nadal has ranked among the world’s top five tennis players since 2003. At the age of 24, he became the youngest athlete to complete the Grand Slam and is the second player in the world to have completed the “Career Golden Slam,” after winning the French, Australian and U.S. Opens; Wimbledon, and a 2008 Olympic gold medal. He holds a record for his nine French Open victories, the most won by a single player, including five consecutive title wins.
Avery Baker, chief marketing and brand officer at Hilfiger, said the company approached Nadal directly. “He’s been a friend of Tommy’s for a long time and a supporter of the brand. We feel he personifies the spirit of the brand. He’s one of the world’s most iconic athletes, and he’s got a touch of the rebel spirit. He has tremendous appeal globally for men and women around the world.”
She said the company did market research and found that Nadal had a 91 percent awareness level in Asia, 95 percent in Europe and 75 percent in America. “He’s very likeable.”
She called the appointment “a pretty significant move for us.” The brand hasn’t done a singular category-focused campaign on a global scale in a long time. “It will complement what we do with Hilfiger’s institutional campaign,” Baker said.
She predicted the combination of “The Hilfigers” and the Nadal campaign will impact the consumer. Asked why they decided to hire Nadal for tailored clothing and underwear, she said, “Obviously we have an extremely strong men’s business globally. We think these are the two categories that have the most significant growth potential. We wanted to get back into underwear in a more sexy way. Tailored is a business that we really believe in, and it’s been growing a lot and has a lot of potential and is so important to continue elevating the brand.”
Sports figures are increasingly finding a home with apparel brands. Some strictly are the face of the brand, while others have developed actual collections for the company. David Beckham designs swimwear and bodywear for H&M, does a capsule collection for Belstaff, and recently struck a multifaceted deal with Global Brands Group for his own brand; basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has a men’s tailored clothing collection with Peerless Clothing; soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has launched men’s shirts and footwear under the CR7 label; Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers hockey player, launched a clothing line called the Crown Collection in 2012 and creates capsule collections and is the face of men’s underwear and bodywear for Bread & Boxers, and Nacho Figueras, the Argentinian polo player, has been the face of Ralph Lauren’s Black Label line since 2005, and was selected to represent the entire line of Polo fragrances.