On Just Signed Zendaya. Here’s Why the Match Makes Sense.

The Swiss label isn't really a running brand anymore — and that's by design

A photo of Zendaya posing in her On gear. The sportswear brand On just signed the "Challengers" actress to a multi-year partnership.
The "Dune 2" star and the ascendant Swiss running brand. A perfect match.
Courtesy of On

On has officially inked Zendaya.

That sentence wouldn’t have made too much sense just a few years ago — and neither, perhaps, would the partnership. The Swiss running brand, which was founded in 2010, reserved its initial sponsorships for endurance athletes, people like Nicola Spirig, Yared Nuguse, Hellen Obiri, David Kilgore, Gregoire Curmer.

Not exactly household names, but as an upstart in a space long dominated by two very famous brands, On Running decided to earn some credibility and got its shoes on the feet of some very fast people. This was true to the company’s roots, anyway (one of the founders, Olivier Bernhard, is a former Ironman champion).

The next big step came in 2019, at which point the brand had 40% of the running shoe market in Switzerland, but was looking to capture more international appeal. So On Running secured Switzerland’s most famous son, Roger Federer. The partnership was finalized after a dinner with the brand’s founders, but it came, funnily enough, after Federer rode a wave of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

He was seeing them everywhere on Swiss streets. “They were impossible to ignore because everyone had them, people out [and about], my friends, my wife,” he told The New York Times. “At first, I thought that they were a little strange to look at, then I realized I actually really liked the design.”

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Around the same time Federer came on board, On dropped the “Running” and became an open-ended lifestyle brand. It wasn’t a pivot away from running so much as an expansion — to tennis shoes, hiking shoes, all-purpose apparel — which coincided with brand awareness and streetwear trends.

For instance, the same maximalist style of shoe (high heel drop, tons of cushion) that’s become ubiquitous in the running world, largely popularized by Hoka One One, is now a staple in street style, too. In 2023, according to Glossy, On’s StockX sales skyrocketed by 15,000%. The brand launched a collab with subculture darling Kith (still available here) and, just recently, a capsule with luxury fashion house Loewe. The Cloudtilt 2.0 is available for $550.

A recent story from the Business of Fashion shows On surging — galloping atop a list of sportswear’s “challenger brands” — with an expected compound annual growth of 26% through the year 2026. The last slide on their post is interesting, too: a pie chart breaking down consumers’ primary reason for purchasing sportswear. Is it for the gym or for the home? Performance or lifestyle? Performance took 44%, lifestyle 41%. (The rest went to “outdoor.”)

That stat right there, and the well-earned position On finds itself nearly 15 years into its existence, is why Zendaya is an absolute dream partnership.

She is the household name, an A-plus-lister who appears to be just getting started, who somehow makes the fulcrum of art, activism, fashion and celebrity appear graceful. On was already cool — it already had Ben Shelton, Joana Hanna, a hook-up with WalkGood LA. But this is different.

According to a press release from On, this is a multi-year partnership, in which Zendaya, “a new brand partner,” will “drive meaningful conversations around movement and well-being.” That tracks. In this booming age of social fitness — run clubs, workout troupes, group walks — you no longer have to fret that performance-versus-lifestyle pie chart. If you’re On, you’ll happily take the whole pie (and share a slice with the 27-year-old actress).

“It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of On for a long time,” Zendaya said. “I’m always wearing them on set, or when I’m traveling, rehearsing or running around with my dog. So it’s a full-circle moment to make this partnership official.” Also potentially relevant here: Loewe designer Jonathan Anderson spearheaded the fashion sensibility in Zendaya’s recent tennis film, Challengers.

For years now, On has been on the up and up, hanging out somewhere in the clouds. Now? It’s headed straight into the stratosphere.

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