At the tender age of 21, Naomi Osaka’s multinational heritage and enigmatic appeal are already putting her on the road to becoming the most marketable female athlete in history. The yardstick here – as in so many areas of the game – is supplied by Serena Williams, whose annual endorsements were reported last week to add up to £25m. Although Osaka’s agency IMG wouldn’t be drawn on any numbers, insiders and sports marketing experts suggest that Osaka has already tallied up that amount in the calendar year, and may well go on to eclipse it. The Japanese market is a particularly lucrative one, with world No 7 Kei Nishikori already standing in third place on the Forbes list of best-paid tennis players – behind Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic but ahead of Rafael Nadal. Celebrity endorsements are hugely valuable in this culture, and there are only perhaps two other Japanese athletes – Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani and golfer Hideki Matsuyama – who can claim to have an international stature matching that of the two big tennis stars. Osaka’s Nike deal – which switched her out of Adidas clothing in April – was a game-changer for her, but the… Read full this story
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