Free People’s sportswear vertical inked a deal with former U.S. Open champ Sloane Stephens
The GIST: FP Movement is starting the 2023 tennis season with a roster addition. Free People’s sportswear vertical inked a deal with former U.S. Open champ Sloane Stephens on Friday, broadening its reach in the evolving tennis apparel space.
The company: After striking a chord with millennial women, bohemian apparel brand Free People launched FP Movement in 2014. The company identified tennis as a sport of interest in 2021 thanks to rising participation rates, and booked Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin as its first ambassador in January 2022.
The details: Terms of Stephens’ deal were not disclosed, but the pair teased plenty of collaboration. FP Movement will “actively pursue” her insight to customize apparel that may eventually be available for purchase. The brand will continue to donate 1% of proceeds to Girls, Inc., and also plans to work with Stephens’ foundation.
- Previously on a four-year Nike contract that began shortly after her 2017 U.S. Open triumph, the world No. 37 ditched the sportswear giant for FP Movement after the deal expired at the end of 2022.
The trend: Smaller athletic wear brands are holding serve in the women’s tennis market. Leylah Fernandez became Lululemon’s first tennis ambassador a year ago, while Ajla Tomljanović has rocked Original Penguin since February. Stephens also isn’t the first to leave Nike in 2023 — Donna Vekić signed with Uomo Sport just last week.
Zooming out: Brands like FP Movement are slowly chipping away at Nike’s virtual monopoly of apparel sponsorship in tennis by promising an individualized approach for players beyond just the sport’s top stars, which translates to strong and focused branding for companies and athletes alike. Game, set, match.
- The trend also suggests that other sports markets could be ripe for competition — 69.5% of 2022 WNBA shoes were Nike, but brands like Moolah Kicks are making gains by using their unique personal touch.