Raducanu is 'brand gold': sports marketing experts

NEW YORK • Emma Raducanu's astonishing US Open triumph could lead to a pot of gold worth around £20 million (S$37 million) over the next two years and that may be just the start, according to sports marketing experts.

The 18-year-old was a relative unknown this year before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon, having earned around US$40,000 (S$57,300) since her senior debut three years ago.

But after becoming Britain's first female Grand Slam champion for 44 years without dropping a set and the first qualifier to win a Major, Raducanu's earning potential is set to enter the stratosphere.

The US$2.5 million she picked up in prize money in New York may soon seem like loose change.

Raducanu's mixed Romanian-Chinese heritage, a stunning game, and engaging personality make her "brand gold", according to one sports marketing expert.

She is already the cover girl for British Vogue's October edition and major global brands in everything from fashion to cars and jewellery will be queuing at the doors of her management company IMG.

"There is no limit in what she can achieve on the court," Tim Lopez, director at sports marketing firm CSM, told Reuters on Monday.

"She's hugely in demand already but to follow that up with continued success in the Majors in tennis will see her rapidly become one of the most marketable athletes on the planet."

With its global reach, tennis offers a road to riches with Japan's Naomi Osaka, the world's highest-paid female athlete, earning US$55 million, not including prize money, in the past year, according to Forbes magazine.

Lopez says Raducanu shares the same marketing appeal as four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian.

"If you use that as a yardstick, not just because of their career trajectory but also their shared appeal and that they are both engaging and from mixed-heritage backgrounds," he said.

"That's a huge benefit from a brand perspective, from an eyeballs point of view, there is no bigger market to tap into."

Raducanu's rise from obscurity to having her face plastered on Times Square billboards will have the biggest sports clothing brands vying for her signature.

After Osaka won back-to-back Grand Slam titles in 2018 and 2019, Nike reportedly paid US$10 million to take her from rivals Adidas.

Raducanu's appeal goes beyond the court, according to Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at GlobalData.

"One of the most impressive things for me was her message in Mandarin for the Chinese audience because the major issue Western sports stars have in breaking (the) China (market) is the language barrier," he said on Reuters.

"The sky is the limit as any Western brand positioning itself in China would be looking at her as an ambassador."

Wiacek expects Raducanu's Nike sponsorship deal to be raised significantly and other endorsements will earn her about US$10 million over the next two years, but the barometer for how commercially successful she will be will also depend on how well she performs on the tennis court.

"With her Chinese and Eastern Europe heritage as well as Britain, that puts her in a different stratosphere to other athletes," he said. "I've seen it being thrown around that she's a potential billion-dollar athlete. That's a long way away."

Raducanu said on Monday during a whirlwind media tour that her US Open win not only took her by surprise but also satisfied her hard-to-please parents.

She told NBC's Today morning show: "They were pretty tough on me when I was young.

"It was really nice to talk to them after I won. They were just so happy and proud of me, and they are my toughest critics and very, very hard to please but I got them with this one."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Raducanu is 'brand gold': sports marketing experts'. Subscribe