On the day of the India vs. Pakistan World Cup clash, Roger Federer was shown holding a 'Team India' cricket shirt which appeared on Facebook and Twitter.
The world - and especially the cricketing world between the two countries, - was in a divide. And quite unnecessarily, a few of Federer’s fans who did not support India went berserk. Being a Swiss, these reactions were new and puzzling, resulting in him giving a public apology.
Was Federer at fault? I believe not, as it was clearly a Nike PR strategy. And with trips to India where he had met other Indian cricketers over the years, it seemed logical and a great publicity stunt.
But that is where the problem lies: It was a publicity stunt and not what Federer would have done it if it was not for a sponsor's activation. And the last straw to this episode was Federer’s public statement in an attempt to clear things up.
About Stardom in the Land of Federer
Roger Federer is one of the most popular sportsmen around the world. He is a personality who is easily recognized. In his position, Federer has great influence among his followers, and this is certainly by no fault of his.
It is an added responsibility that creeps in for being good, in fact, too good in what he does. Someone’s aura becomes hugely dictated by the personal life and the choices they make. In Switzerland, Federer has fewer expectations as the concept of stardom is not popular.
Of course, this is apart from the support Federer enjoys when he turns up for his matches. The rest of the time, people leave him to go about his routine life.
Roger Federer and the Cricket Faux Pas
Things change drastically for Roger Federer when he competes outside of Switzerland - or when he attends promotional events. He knows it all too well, and so far has handled these situations remarkably with ease.
In this instance, Federer was unaware about cricket fans and how passionate they can get during the World Cups. With social media activities being at a peak, any of his posts will reach millions of his fans, as well as a global audience, in an instant.
We all know the kind of emotions that are involved when India and Pakistan are put in the same room... So Federer's pose with the Team India shirt did not go well with many of his Pakistani fans.
— Nike Cricket (@nikecricket) February 15, 2015
Lots of reactions in support of Federer poured in, while many expressed their anger towards him for that very photograph.
It was this negative feedback which puzzled him the most and which resulted in a public apology:
"It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn't to spark any fire and I'm sorry if it did that."
So was it all a Public Relations Stunt that Misfired?
To be honest, not many know of Federer's support for South Africa, which is as a result of his mother Lynette being a South African. The picture, a Nike advised PR stunt, went viral and resulted in a zealous Pakistani fan expressing his displeasure.
Was this a case of a single PR activity being misfired? How would it have been if this photo was shown during the recently concluded match of India vs. South Africa?
Would Federer have been loyal to his sponsors Nike - or his favorite team of South Africa?