With U.S. Open Win, Raducanu Could Reach ‘Sponsorship Unicorn’ Status

·3 min read

This year’s surprise U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu could embody the future of tennis—and enjoy all the financial benefits that could bring.

“If she plays her cards right,” and manages to maintain her U.S. Open-level dominance, “Raducanu has commercial potential similar to LeBron James,” said Conrad Wiacek, the head of sports analysis at GlobalData, in a phone interview.

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The 18-year-old British tennis player, the daughter of a Chinese mother and a Romanian father, arrived in New York as a qualifier, ranking 150th on the ATP list, with 400,000 followers on Instagram. After a historic performance, she left with a trophy, the world’s No. 23 ranking and well over a million followers.

Now, Wiacek thinks Raducanu’s story, success and unique background have her on a path to becoming a commercial phenomenon in the U.K. and beyond.

Raducanu currently has two sponsors, Nike and Wilson, and has the same representation team that Maria Sharapova did for much of her career. While Raducanu’s reps are renegotiating with her existing sponsors, brands are eyeing opportunities with the new face of British tennis.

“Raducanu can expect her earnings potential to grow significantly,” said Dave Wakeman of Wakeman Consulting Group. “Just by renewing her existing deals, Raducanu can expect to be generating revenue of over $1 million from these two deals alone, while other brands will no doubt be looking at Raducanu as a potential brand ambassador.”

Tennis has a history of partnering with luxury and premium brands, but Raducanu’s diverse background represents a massive opportunity for companies that do not traditionally associate with tennis. Two examples of athletes going beyond legacy sponsors are Roger Federer’s deal with Uniqlo and Dwyane Wade’s deal with Li-Ning. “We call this ‘brand halo,’” Wakeman said. “Think about Greta Thurnberg and Rolex. Brands like Unilever could work with [Raducanu] to enhance their efforts to stop domestic violence. Or Visa could partner with Emma to continue building their brand as supportive of women.”

According to Wakeman, she could be a “sponsorship unicorn,” meaning someone who plays a sport with high perceived value for sponsors because she hits many demographics. A big Formula One fan, Raducanu can potentially be a brand ambassador for automobiles.

GlobalData’s Wiacek thinks Raducanu can be perfect for iconic British car brand Jaguar, while Wakeman suggests Ford, Volvo and Mercedes. “Especially as they work on electrifying their fleets, the angle could be something like, It is time for a new generation.”

Following her post-game interview in Mandarin, Chinese companies like Alibaba, Huawei and Tencent could also be looking for potential partnerships with the young player.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray’s U.K.-based Castore is interested in Raducanu. The sportswear maker is looking for long-term ambassadors to differentiate the brand, since Murray’s future in tennis is unclear. “They have done a number of kit deals in soccer, and they have just signed with England national cricket team,” Wakeman said. “So again, a brand like that already has a natural fit there. Both Emma and Castore are challenging the establishment.”

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