London – Emma Raducanu’s astonishing U.S. Open triumph could lead to a pot of gold worth around ₤20 million ($27.7 million) over the next two years and that may be just the start, according to sports marketing experts.
The 18-year-old Briton was almost unheard before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon this year, having earned around $40,000 since her senior debut three years ago.
After becoming Britain’s first female Grand Slam champion in 44 years and the new golden girl of women’s tennis, Raducanu’s earning potential is set to enter the stratosphere.
The $2.5 million she picked up in prize money for beating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in a final that captivated the sports world may soon seem like loose change.
Raducanu’s Romanian-Chinese heritage, a stunning game and engaging personality make her “brand gold” according to one sports marketing expert.
She is already on the cover of British Vogue’s October edition and major global brands in everything from fashion to cars and jewelery will be lining up at IMG, her management company.
“There is no limit in what she can achieve on the court,” Tim Lopez, director at sports marketing firm CSM, told Reuters earlier this week.
“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 and equal exposure, tennis offers a road to riches for top female players, with Japan’s Naomi Osaka earning $55 million, not including prize money, in the past year, according to Forbes magazine.
Of the world’s 10 highest-paid female athletes, nine are tennis players.
Lopez says Raducanu, whose mother Renee is Chinese, shares the same marketing appeal as Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion 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, that’s a huge benefit from a brand perspective, from an eyeballs point of view there is no bigger market to tap into,” he said.
Raducanu’s rise from obscurity to having her face plastered on billboards in Times Square will have sports apparel brands vying for her signature. After Osaka followed up her win in the 2018 U.S. Open by winning the 2019 Australian Open, Nike reportedly paid $10 million to take her from rival Adidas.
Raducanu’s appeal goes beyond the court, according to Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at GlobalData.
“Her victory takes her way beyond tennis and sport in terms of marketability,” he told Reuters.
“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 China is the language barrier.
“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 get a significant raise and that other endorsements will earn her about $10 million over the next two years.
“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.
“That’s based on consistency, but just on the next 12 months I would say $5 million would be a realistic number. Ultimately the barometer for how commercially successful she will be will depend on how successful she is on the tennis court.”
Raducanu is represented by super-agent Max Eisenbud, who helped turn Russian Maria Sharapova into the highest-earning female athlete after she won Wimbledon at age 17, with off-court career earnings of around $320 million.
However, the pitfalls in professional tennis are numerous with Osaka, another IMG athlete, currently struggling to cope with the sudden fame and fortune.
Lopez says striking the right balance between on-court and off-court activities will be a key factor in Raducanu achieving her full potential.
“People need to give the girl a chance to consolidate what she’s done and not to heap too much pressure on too soon,” he said.
“Focus on the mental well-being, then the sporting well-being and the financial rewards will certainly follow.”
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