The 20-year-old Ben Shelton left New Balance for upstart brand On. Here’s what On CEO Marc Maurer has to say about the phenom.
The 6-foot-4 Atlanta native has become the serve-and-volley sensation of the tournament, besting Americans Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe in his last two matches, triumphantly and loudly celebrating along the way. In March, On, a Swiss running shoe and apparel brand with Roger Federer as a minority investor, signed its first tennis players led by Shelton and women’s world No. 1 Iga Świątek. Shelton left New Balance to join the upstart outfit.
“As we looked to expand our presence in tennis, Ben was a player who immediately stood out to us,” Marc Maurer, On’s co-CEO, told Boardroom. “He’s such an exciting and up-and-coming player to watch, and he’s quickly becoming a household name in the tennis community. At just 20 years old, Ben is an underdog at the start of his career. He has that competitive spirit that is On’s ethos.”
Maurer stressed that On’s ethos also includes a deeply collaborative approach with the athletes they choose as partners. Earlier this summer, Shelton visited the brand’s On Labs global headquarters in Zurich, where he got to spend time with employees and saw firsthand how the products are created. Maurer said Shelton plays an active role in the design and testing of On’s footwear and apparel.
Prior to the US Open, On held a free day of play in Brooklyn at the Fort Greene Tennis courts with Shelton and Świątek participating. Maurer and Federer were also on hand, with Federer sharing with attendees that he feels Shelton represents the next generation of world-class talent.
Not a bad endorsement from one of the greatest men’s tennis players to ever live.
What makes Shelton unique, Maurer said, is that while he’s aggressive, athletic, and explosive on the court, he’s humble and even shy at times outside the lines.
“He’s young and full of energy,” Maurer said. “While he doesn’t entertain strict routines, he is extremely driven toward his goals.”
Founded in 2010, On faces quite the uphill battle in the tennis space. The brand is tasked with gaining a foothold in a legacy industry dominated by giants Nike and Adidas but also includes fashion brands like Lacoste, K-Swiss, and even Emporio Armani and Hugo Boss. At that Fort Greene event in August, Maurer laid out how On plans to differentiate itself.
“When I think about tennis footwear and apparel over the last several decades, there’s been hardly any innovation,” he said. “Like we did with running, we are here to change that, hard at work to reshape what tennis footwear and apparel can look like.”
That’s already begun with the $200 Roger shoes that Shelton wears and helped design to his technical specifications.
While Maurer neither confirmed nor denied that a Shelton signature shoe at On is in the works, he said the brand plans to introduce its first-ever tennis apparel collection next year, with Shelton heavily involved in the process.
“If you’ve been watching Ben play over the last couple of weeks at the US Open, you’ve had a sneak peek at our upcoming apparel in action,” Maurer said.
Shelton’s success on the sport’s brightest stage at the US Open has brought exposure and visibility to both the player and the On brand, but Maurer wanted to highlight the new level of confidence in the American’s game and the due recognition he’s receiving.
“There is so much more ahead for him,” Maurer said, “and we’re incredibly proud and humbled to be by his side in this journey.”
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