‘Revealed: Emma Raducanu, 19, made a whopping $21MILLION in the year since her stunning US Open win, according to Forbes… with $18m earned in her portfolio of off-court partnerships with the likes of British Airways, Evian and Dior.’
A headline that appeared in the Daily Mail Online days before the young tennis star’s US Open defence began. The story goes on to detail the multiple endorsement deals with a variety of companies spanning a host of industries Raducanu had earned in the 12 months since she took that historic US Open victory in September 2021.
Fast forward to last Wednesday morning and Raducanu saw her title defence end before it had even really begun against the experienced yet unseeded Alize Cornet in a disappointing first-round loss which closed out a difficult year on the court for the teenager. As you can imagine, below the line had something to say about the loss.
Bypassing Raducanu’s remarkable talents and the realities of a young sporting star searching for the quality of consistency, you scan through the reader’s comments and discover a common narrative occurs. One of Raducanu being a ‘one-hit wonder’, her Open success being a fluke and, most notably, an athlete who has ‘spent the past 12 months more focused on cashing endorsement deals than winning tennis matches.’ Ignoring the fact that without that historic US Open victory last year, Raducanu would not have attracted any of these partnerships she currently has, nor would she have been able to have deservedly earned the fees that come alongside them. And skirting around the point that you do not ‘fluke’ your way to a tennis Grand Slam title, especially at the age of 18. And passing on the point that Raducanu is already Britain’s most successful female tennis player since Virginia Wade 45 years ago. Apparently, Raducanu has cashed in and bounced.
For those in the Mail comment section, I’m sure they’ll all have gone quiet by the time Raducanu’s big next win rolls by. And as for the brands buying into the Racucanu name, I’m sure they’re yet to be losing any sleep over their multi-million investments. That’s because ultimately, an athlete’s value spans far beyond the trophies in their cabinet.
She’s modern, she’s relatable, she’s international. She has a combined social media following of over three million global, young, inspired and engaged people. She’s just a teenage girl enjoying her life. Spend all you like on targeted advertising campaigns or tailored brand messaging; nothing beats the influence of a relatable individual. Raducanu is the perfect advertising tool.
If Raducanu fails to ever repeat those US Open heroics, it doesn’t really matter. The authentic endorsements she will have given her partners and the worth she will have offered to their core values will have already been of immeasurable value.
Road cyclist Peter Sagan is a perfect example of an individual’s value.
Sagan is a three-time World Champion, seven-time green jersey winner at the Tour de France and champion of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the two toughest one-day races in the cycling calendar. He was funny, he was slightly arrogant, and he dominated news headlines and social channels through his irreverent soundbites and authentic persona.
He is also now considered within the sport as an underperformer who has failed to match the illustrious palmarès of riders from yesteryear he was once compared with, now usurped by a new generation of riders that have taken the sport to new levels. So much so that at the age of 32, Sagan rides for ‘second-division’ team TotalEnergies with just two victories of note since the beginning of 2020.
Yet according to French newspaper L’Equipe, in 2022, Sagan was the joint second-best paid cyclist in the world taking home €5.5million a year. The only rider in the world earning more than him is two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar. The second-best paid cyclist in the world yet not at a top-level team and with just two big wins in almost two seasons.
Rather than his wage coming from the team’s primary sponsor, French utility supplier TotalEnergies, he is reported to be paid by the team’s bike and accessory sponsor, and personal sponsor of Sagan, Specialized. The American bike brand came on board with the French team alongside Sagan at the beginning of 2022 and, as a secondary sponsor, is said to be subsidising his wage for the team to the tune of 100%.
Why? According to sources within the organisation, Sagan’s name alone sells close to five times that salary figure in bike sales annually. Sagan the individual, Sagan the social media presence, Sagan the headline grabber, Sagan the brand, win or lose, is adored by the cycling community. He is the sport’s most popular personality globally. It does not matter that he is no longer the force that he once was, his name is still the one at the top of the bill.
The simple fact is when he tells people to ride Specialized bikes, they do. His word alone is worth millions in bike sales each and every year and it doesn’t matter how he performs on the bike, the people love Sagan, so the people buy Specialized bikes.
Sagan will always shift Specialized bikes just like Raducanu will always sell Tiffany jewellery and British Airways flights. Winning? For the brand, well that’s just an added bonus.