This past Friday, a record filled stadium of 51 954 spectators witnessed the ‘Match in Africa’. Roger Federer took on Rafael Nadal to come out on top in the sixth match in Africa for Roger Federer’s charity. The match raised more than three and a half million dollars in funds for the Roger Federed Foundation which supports educational programmes for children in Africa. As many were charmed by Federer’s humility, one needs to remember that the magnitude and influence of such an event is made possible by the great reputation that Federer has and how he has nurtured it throughout his career.

“Our athletes are under constant scrutiny to maintain their reputations,” says Chris Bischoff, reputation manager at Reputation Matters. “They are thrust into the media and public eye and are under constant pressure to uphold and represent their personal values, their teams and those of their sponsors. The athletes that go on to leave a legacy long after retirement are the ones who have perfected their reputation and own personal brand. Those who have ‘dropped the ball’ in maintaining a positive reputation are left to pick up the pieces. One of the most well known examples, Lance Armstrong lost in the region of US$ 100 million to sponsorships that he lost and to lawsuits,” continues Bischoff.

Brands specifically want to sponsor players and teams that resonate with their values and that represent their brand in a positive light. A good performance and a clean reputation is a recipe for a career long partnership. This is evident with Federer’s primary sponsor, Rolex. The tennis star and top watch brand have enjoyed a lucrative partnership since 2003. With the cost of travel, accommodation and equipment, having sponsorship is absolutely necessary as a professional sports athlete.

“Federer has an impressive portfolio of sponsorship with the likes of Rolex, Mercedes and Wilson. Along with his humble demeanour and impressive performances on court, he has a strong social outreach with the Roger Federer Foundation; it is no surprise that top brands want to be associated with him,” says Bischoff. “It is no different in the corporate landscape; a company with a top performance, authentic communication and strong social outreach, will invite the right strategic brand partners who resonates with its company values.”

Professional sports athletes that do a good job at nurturing a positive reputation throughout their careers often go on to become successful long after their sport career has ended. Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok hooker Schalk Brits quickly earned himself a position as investment holdings company, Remgro. Another great example, George Weah who is regarded as one of Africa’s greatest soccer players of all time. He made his name with Italian giant AC Milan; his net worth is $87 million dollars. Today he is the president of Liberia, something that he would not have achieved if he didn’t have a good reputation and if people didn’t resonate with his values.

“With a big heart for Africa and a strong reputation, Federer has left a wave of positive influence in our country,” concludes Bischoff.