The teenage tennis player Emma Raducanu’s fairytale run to US Open final has put her on track to become the hottest property in British sport, according to brand and sponsorship experts.
The 18-year-old, who swept aside her semi-final opponent, Maria Sakkari, in straight sets, will be the first British woman to reach a grand slam final for 44 years when she competes for the US Open title on Saturday night.
Making it to the last 16 at Wimbledon on her grand slam debut confirmed her as the next British tennis talent but a win at the US Open would make her a global media star and a magnet for multimillion-pound sponsorship and advertising deals.
Tim Crow, a sports marketing consultant who advised Coca-Cola on football sponsorship for two decades, said: “I haven’t had this many calls from clients, major brands, who are interested in her since Lewis Hamilton broke through in Formula One.
“If she wins she will become one of the hottest properties in British sport, if not the hottest.”
Crow said Raducanu’s combination of youth, sporting prowess, charismatic personality and international appeal – she was born in Canada to parents from Romania and China and is a product of the British tennis system – makes her commercial gold for brands.
“As far as brand appeal is concerned I think you can draw parallels with Naomi Osaka [Born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and raised in the US],” said Crow. “Because of the multicultural aspect of her heritage she is able to resonate in so many markets. She is a world citizen, she appeals so far beyond a typical white, British, middle-class female tennis player.”
Raducanu’s earnings potential is also enhanced by the fact that she is excelling at tennis, one of the few truly global sports with the biggest endorsement deals and prize money for women, which Crow says “makes it the best sport for a woman for marketability and market potential”.
However, experts agree that the recipe for Raducanu’s success, however appealing she may be as a brand and sponsorship property, comes down to one thing: success.
“It all depends on if she wins, and carries on as she has, then she will represent a British sport success story from generation Z, we haven’t had any sports stars out of that generation,” said PR expert Mark Borkowski. “If she can continue I’d put her up there with the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf [in earnings potential], they were winners with long careers who started young. I’d call her the billion-dollar girl. But you have to keep winning – you can’t be a one-hit wonder.”
Raducanu’s success will also have executives at Amazon’s British headquarters rubbing their hands with glee. British viewers who want to watch her bid for Grand Slam greatness will not be able to watch it on free-to-air TV as Amazon has the exclusive UK broadcast rights.
In 2018, the company paid about $40m in a five year deal as part of a strategy to add TV content to lure more customers to pay £79 annually for its Prime subscription package, which includes other perks such as free delivery. In 2016, Sky Sports dropped its coverage of the US Open after 25 years, ending one of the longest major sports rights deals.