A few years ago, Angelique Kerber and Manuel Neuer, both cerebral and celebrated German athletes in vastly different fields, discovered a common bond.
Over their careers, they have both suffered dangerous sun damage to their skin. Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion who has played more than 1,000 matches over nearly 20 years, experienced hyperpigmentation — dark spots on her face and arms — that forms when the body tries to limit the effects of the sun by increasing the production of the brown pigment known as melanin.
Neuer, the goalkeeper and captain for Bayern Munich and the German national team, has had three operations to remove skin cancer from his face. If you look closely enough, you can see the scars.
He first met when Kerber attended a Bayern Munich game and subsequently crossed paths several times more.
“And then one day, we just spoke about things besides tennis,” Kerber said recently from her home in Poland. “He has his own story, like my story, with the sun. We came together about two years ago and really discussed a business idea that we can do together. Something special, something that means a lot to us, but also where we had a lot of experience.”
The result is a new skin care line — newkee care essentials, a combination of their last names — that emphasizes sun protection. In the wake of the recent launch, you can order online (www.newkee.de) and receive shipping within Europe. The goal is to eventually expand the product line and their reach, to North America and beyond.
“I think we did a good job and I’m really proud what we did,” Kerber said. “I’m really looking forward to the feedback of the people.”
Neuer was Germany’s keeper in the recent FIFA World Cup held in Qatar and in his final game, a 4-2 victory over Costa Rica, he earned his 19th cap, a record for keepers and one more than Brazil’s Claudio Taffarel and West Germany’s Sepp Maier. As part of the newkee rollout, Neuer revealed his battle with skin cancer in a recent Instagram post.
“We both have a history of skin diseases,” Neuer, viewed by many as one of the greatest goaltenders of this generation, said in a video. “When it comes to sunscreen, we have therefore paid attention to maximum protection. Since we train outside all the time and also like to spend our free time in nature, it is essential for us to start with modern sun protection filters and a sun protection factor of 50+.
“So we know for sure that we have a sunscreen that protects us continuously.”
The products for a daily skin care routine include: daily sunscreen SPF 50+, lip balm SPF 30, shampoo, body wash, body lotion and hand cream. It was important to both athletes that they are all for unisex use, vegan-free, fragrance-free and climate-neutral.
To go from concept to finished product required two years.
“It’s a long process, I can tell you,” Kerber said, laughing. “We had so many Zoom calls, so many meetings. The products we tried and gave our feedback. We changed it, we tried again. We put a lot of attention on it. Because we said when we go out, we want to have the best product.”
Kerber and Neuer worked with Paedi Protect AG, a company that manufactures skin products, specializing in children. After the formulas for the products were locked in, then there was more work to create the line’s name, recycled packaging, marketing and distribution.
“All this stuff, where you don’t think about this in the beginning,” Kerber said. “You think, ‘OK, let’s do something,’ — and that’s it. But it’s a really long way, and a really intense way.”
Part of their motivation, Kerber said, was to educate people to the dangers of the sun.
The message: “Hey, we need to be sensitive to the UV rays,” Kerber said. “If people find a really dark spot or light spot on their skin to be not afraid to go to the doctor. Making all the checks once or twice a year with the dermatologist and this is what we want to educate. For the kids, for everyone.”
Speaking of kids, Kerber is due to give birth to her first child sometime this coming spring. She made the announcement this past fall when she pulled out of the US Open. The goal is to return to tennis late in the 2023 season, possibly at the US Open, where she was the 2016 champion.
Her disciplined, organized approach to tennis has helped her navigate the world of business. In fact, Kerber said, tennis and business have many similarities.
“It is not really different, because you have to give it your whole attention,” she said. “You have to work sometimes 24 hours, you have to be flexible, you have to be really fast sometimes with the decisions. And, like tennis, you have a whole team. At the end, in tennis, you are alone and here you are not completely alone. It’s important to have a good team around you.”