Singapore athletes to don Yonex apparel: 4 things about the Japanese sports brand

The Malaysian badminton team arriving in Singapore to compete in the Yonex invitation circuit in 1980. -- ST FILE PHOTO
The Malaysian badminton team arriving in Singapore to compete in the Yonex invitation circuit in 1980. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Wong Shoon Keat, 24, in action during the match against Indonesia's Iie Sumirat at the Yonex international friendly at the Singapore Badminton Hall in 1981. -- ST FILE PHOTO 
Wong Shoon Keat, 24, in action during the match against Indonesia's Iie Sumirat at the Yonex international friendly at the Singapore Badminton Hall in 1981. -- ST FILE PHOTO 
Badminton player Rudy Hartono (second from right) conducting a coaching clinic at an exhibition match at the Delta Sports Complex in 1983. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Badminton player Rudy Hartono (second from right) conducting a coaching clinic at an exhibition match at the Delta Sports Complex in 1983. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Denmark's Peter Gade in action against Hong Kong's Ng Wei on Jan 19, 2006, during the final qualifiers of the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, Britain. -- PHOTO: EPA
Denmark's Peter Gade in action against Hong Kong's Ng Wei on Jan 19, 2006, during the final qualifiers of the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, Britain. -- PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Friday inked a deal with Sunrise & Company, extending its 42-year partnership with the local Yonex distributor.

The partnership will see Sunrise continue to kit Team Singapore athletes and officials heading to major Games with Yonex-branded apparel from the 2015 SEA Games to 2020 Olympic Games.

Here's some things to note about the Japanese brand, which creates badminton, golf and tennis equipment and apparel:

1. Beginnings as wooden float manufacturer

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The company, originally called Yoneyama, was founded by Mr Minoru Yoneyama in 1946. It made wooden floats for boats, but this became obsolete with the use of plastic floats. In 1957, he switched to manufacturing badminton racquets, which were made of wood then, for other brands. He launched the Yonex brand in 1973.

2. Yonex-endorsed medal winners

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The first badminton player to be endorsed by Yonex was Indonesian Rudy Hartono, the eight-time All England Championships winner. Hartono is founder Mr Yoneyama's favourite player, he has said.

The brand also sponsored Singaporean shuttler Ronald Susilo for many years, with a brief hiatus when Susilo partnered with Chinese brand Li-Ning in 2011.

About 80 per cent of professional badminton players used their racquets.

3. Sued by Wilson

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Mr Yoneyama, now 88, related to the Straits Times in 2005 how he settled a trademark dispute with rival brand Wilson back in 1973.

American racquet maker Wilson claimed that the two consecutive "y's" in the Yonex symbol were taken directly from the "W" in the Wilson mark. Wilson claimed it was an infringment of its trademark as an "illusory likeness".

"As the trial progressed, Wilson's reasons for bringing the suit gradually became clear. They said the Japanese were very good at copying things and used other people's ideas in business," he said.

"Suddenly, the likelihood of a long-drawn court cause was reversed by a single statement from the judge. The judge asked the Wilson side whether the performance and quality of the racquet had been copied. Wilson said theirs were incomparably better.

The judge said he played tennis and had been a user of Wilson for a long time. However, recently, he had tried Yonex and found he was doing well. He said he could not believe Yonex was inferior.

"We never imagined that we would get such support from him. In the end, both sides came to an amicable settlement."

4. You're saying it wrong

According to this video, it's not "Yo-nex" as we would pronounce it in English, but "yonekkusu". Take note if you're asking for a badminton racquet in Japan.

Sources: Straits Times, Yonex.com

chuimin@sph.com.sg