With close to 3 million joint social media followers, the new Australian Open Champion proves to become this era’s most marketable athlete. 2020 saw Naomi become the worlds highest-paid athlete where she received $3.4 million in prize money but a whopping $34 million from endorsements. She’s had a smashing start to 2021 by becoming an official brand ambassador for French Fashion House, Louis Vuitton (LV) and luxury watch company, Tag Heuer. Her athletic record backs up her high-volumes of media interest; however, her introverted and reserved personality makes her unique to other athletes. She’s also a vibrant advocate of using sport to drive awareness to the female game.
Those are many of her admirable qualities and values, but how do they contribute to her illustrious marketability?
Tennis has seen multiple stars with strong personalities. Examples include the glorious Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Nick Krygios and many more. By all means, having self-esteem is essential when you’re an athlete. Although Naomi exceptionally channels that ego through her introverted nature, which has complimented her humble attitude as a sportswoman.
Her marketability has been endorsed because the US & Japanese star became 2020’s Associated Press Female athlete. Her attitude displayed on and off the court demonstrates her to be a positive role model to inspire audiences that brands want to target. Plus, it allows her athletic ability to speak for itself rather than insistently promoting it herself. This value alone can have a tremendous impact on upcoming female tennis players to stay true to themselves, as Naomi has.
French fashion designer, Nicolas Ghesquière, described Naomi to be “an exceptional woman who represents her generation and is also a role model for everyone” when announcing her as Louis Vuitton’s brand ambassador. Naomi’s accolade of achievements has transformed her into a pivotal figure for female sport in multiple generations.
This year, Osaka became the co-owner of a women’s soccer team, the North Carolina Courage. Her investment sees the tennis star strategically advise the club on inspiring upcoming female athletes. Soccer has been a colossal moment for voicing female empowerment in sport. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup experienced ground-breaking viewership results, demonstrating it’s growing influence on the global sporting community. Naomi jumping into the soccer world, amplifies her brand power to connect soccer and tennis audiences collaboratively.
The sports star became one of the most influential campaigners for Black Lives Matter last year. The US Open Final saw Naomi wear alternative face masks with names of BAME individuals who’ve passed from police brutality. She also didn’t participate in the Southern and Western Open to encourage the tournament to pay condolences to Jacob Blake‘s shooting.
Naomi’s BLM tribute saw her social media following pounce by 57%. Many sportspeople campaigned with Naomi for BLM, including Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, US soccer player, Megan Rapinoe and Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton. Each experienced audience boosts, which appeared to be driven by younger audiences endorsing socially responsible brands.
The BLM movement has become a game-changer for sponsorship culture to champion social responsibility. Not only is it significant to escalate brand awareness, but it also has the potential to create a worldwide impact through tailored content creation. Naomi being an instrumental puzzle piece for athletic activism reinforces her media appeal for brands wanting to collaborate.
Passion for luxury fashion
Naomi has admitted fashion to be one of her most ‘treasured passions’, and she’s been buying Louis Vuitton handbags for her mum since she was 16 years old. Before becoming LV and Tag Heuer’s brand ambassadors, early 2020 saw Osaka work in-partnership with high-end fashion brand, Adeam on a capsule collection that embraced her Japanese culture.
Naomi’s ‘fashion passion’ isn’t materialistic; her values synergise with the morals luxury fashion labels have. Tag Heuer inspired her as they champion innovation, high precision and performance. Naomi classes herself as a curious individual who enjoys being outside her comfort zone. When announcing the LV partnership, Ghesquière described Naomi’s personal values as uncompromised, contributing to becoming a role model for everyone. This echoed Naomi’s principle of sharing the love her and Ghesquière share for Japanese culture.
Luxury fashion and Tennis tournaments have always had a prosperous relationship, particularly with brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Rolex sponsoring Grand Slam competitions. It’s led luxury fashion to become a significant stakeholder in the game; with Naomi’s considerable following, it strengthens the bond both industries have with one another. Once again, this trend is influenced by Naomi’s passions, personal values and interests.
Japanese and American heritage
Naomi is engaged by two nations, Japan and America, through her heritage. 2019 saw an astonishing 20 million Japanese viewers tuned into watching their tennis star triumph at the Australian Open. 22.5 million watched Naomi give her speech at the award ceremony, eventually contributing the occasion to becoming Japan’s most-watched program during the Open.
The US audience experienced significant expansions from Naomi’s win that year too. US sports channel, ESPN, gained an 18% increase in viewers from the final than the previous year, totalling 529,000 viewers. Plus, when Osaka beat Serena Williams in the 2017 Australian Open Final, ESPN saw 50% more viewers watch the Women’s final than the Men’s.
The results accumulated from the Japanese audience illustrates how passionate and connected the nation feels towards Naomi’s successful tennis career. On the other hand, the US audience shows their curiosity with a new rising star in the women’s game.
Osaka’s now built two influential audiences in diverse territories, which have acquired to leverage her profile to new heights, including becoming the poster girl for Tokyo 2020, supporting an American soccer team and gaining enormous US media interest.
Ultimately, her athletic career has kept her a prominent and marketable figure. Yielding approximately $19,670,000 in prize earnings throughout her career, owning seven singles titles, winning 4 Grand-Slams and claiming a 2nd place singles ranking through the WTA is enough leverage to make noise worldwide.
As long as Osaka continues to let her athletic prowess do the work on the court, the marketing assets away from the court will grow.
What makes Naomi Osaka so marketable is her illustrious sporting career enticing a new and growing audience towards her brand, which can be creatively captivated through activations that are culturally relevant to her values, interests, and passions.