Caution needed as Emma Raducanu becomes a global sports brand

By our News Team | 2021

As the world’s marketers and sponsors flock to US Open tennis winner Raducanu, let’s not make the same mistakes as with past prodigies.

It was Emma Raducanu’s crushing ace which sealed a maiden US Open tennis win. Even before that, the marketing world was licking its lips at the arrival of sport’s newest superstar. 

Undoubtedly, much attention and many financial rewards will come the way of the young Briton. However, Matt Readman of London-based sports marketing agency Dark Horses writes the following as a caution in the UK marketing industry publication, The Drum

Her dramatic success caught the marketing world off guard. Articles in both industry and mainstream press on her newfound superstardom were full of experts using words like ‘bankable’. A long list of commercial endorsements were sure to follow the 18-year-old, they predicted.

Stories of the teenage superstars are often seen as a fairy tale. But there are also demons here too. If not managed correctly, marketers can fall into the trap of inadvertently objectifying young stars. This can add significant burdens to their mental health.

Time to exercise caution?

Marketers need to consider the mental stress they put her under. Professional tennis is brutally tough. A largely individual sport with a scoring system designed to stretch your mind as much as your body.  

Luckily for Raducanu, she is competing in a period when athletes are finding their true voice. For too long the persona of superstars was built outside of their control – by the media, brands and public. Now, athletes are starting to regain the ability to forge their own narrative. Through platforms like TikTok they can show another side to themselves away from the sponsored social posts and the media-trained interviews.

Raducanu offers an incredible opportunity for brands. Not to use a marketable face, but to listen and understand the story she wants to tell. The Emma Raducanu story can’t reflect those stars that have preceded her. It deserves to be totally unique and something we’ve never seen before. Brands that are looking to sponsor her should be patient, helping her discover who she is and what she wants to stand for. If they do, they will reap far greater rewards than any opportunistic short-term activations.

Source: The Drum