Osaka go for big money with Ja­pan, global ap­peal

The Korea Times - - SPORTS - TOKYO (AP)

— Naomi Osaka used a pow­er­ful fore­hand and a match­ing serve to win the U.S. Open against Ser­ena Wil­liams two months ago, soar­ing as high as No. 4 this sea­son in the WTA ten­nis rank­ings.

Off the court — on the mar­ket­ing front — she has the same po­ten­tial. Maybe more.

“It’s very, very rare to find a Ja­panese-born fe­male ath­lete who ap­peals to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence,” said Bob Dorf­man, a sports mar­ket­ing ex­pert and creative di­rec­tor at Baker Street Ad­ver­tis­ing in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia.

Ser­ena Wil­liams topped the Forbes list of the high­est-earn­ing fe­male ath­letes this year at $18 mil­lion, al­most all en­dorse­ments. Osaka ap­pears to be the right woman in the right sport at the right time with the draw to over­take Wil­liams.

“What’s more, ten­nis, es­pe­cially women’s ten­nis, is a sport that lends it­self to a broad va­ri­ety of spon­sors: sport­ing goods, health and beauty, fash­ion, life­style, travel, per­sonal care, you name it,” Dorf­man said. “And the sport’s in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing brings with it a large, loyal and af­flu­ent fan base. All the more rea­son why so many com­pa­nies are lin­ing up to sign her up.”

The big ques­tion is: Can she keep this up?

Much has hap­pened very quickly for her, notes for­mer ten­nis star Chris Evert.

“You know, it’s go­ing to be life-chang­ing for her and very, very im­por­tant,” Evert said. “From what I see, she is very hum­ble and from what I see, her par­ents are very hum­ble peo­ple. Hope­fully they won’t go Hol­ly­wood on us. We don’t want that to hap­pen.”

Osaka’s mul­ti­cul­tural back­ground — Ja­pan-born but raised in the U.S. by a Haitian-Amer­i­can fa­ther and a Ja­panese mother — adds to her wide ap­peal, en­dear­ing her to fans in Ja­pan and else­where.

Her dis­arm­ing charm, off and on the court, in­clud­ing how she han­dled the tur­moil sur­round­ing her win over Wil­liams, is also win­ning peo­ple over.

“She ap­peals to the young and old, men and women, ev­ery­one,” said Shigeru Tanaka, ad­ver­tis­ing man­ager at Ci­ti­zen, her spon­sor since Au­gust. Tokyo-based Ci­ti­zen Watch Co.’s 80,000 yen ($700) Naomi Osa- ka watch is sell­ing out at stores in Ja­pan, thanks to the ex­po­sure it got on her wrist at the U.S. Open.

Ci­ti­zen was quick to take ad­van­tage of her Grand Slam win, tak­ing out a one-third page ad in the Yomi­uri news­pa­per’s ex­tra edi­tion re­port of her win. Com­pa­nies won’t say how much her con­tracts are worth, but they tend to be writ­ten so that if she keeps win­ning, her earn­ings will keep go­ing up.

AP-Yon­hap

U.S. Open cham­pion Naomi Osaka is pre­sented with a gift from Haiti's Pres­i­dent Jovenel Moise and first lady Mar­tine Eti­enne Joseph dur­ing a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the Na­tional Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thurs­day. The Haitian-Ja­panese ten­nis star is in the Caribbean for a 5-day visit.

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