Naomi Osaka, already one of the primary faces of Adidas’ tennis roster, is reportedly set to sign a massive new contract with the company in the wake of her first major tournament win. While Osaka has been on the rise — and on Adidas’ books — for quite some time now she fulfilled all of that promise by winning the US Open at only 20 years old on Saturday.
Her straight sets defeat of Serena Williams could now be the thing that launches her to the next level of star female athletes. A report from The Times says that she is set to ink a contract renewal with Adidas worth £6.5 million (approximately $ 8.5 million) when her current contract expires at the end of the year.
Osaka, who is half-Haitian and half-Japanese, plays under the Japanese flag and as such is more appealing to sponsors. As made evident by Roger Federer’s recent deal with Uniqlo, the Asian market is more important forever and that player-sponsorship relationship goes both ways. Osaka’s father considered this upside when making the decision for her to represent Japan as opposed to the US, so his thinking was exactly right.
Yahoo notes that this would catapult her to the upper echelon of Forbes’ highest paid female athletes list. She would still trail Serena Williams despite this contract and her US Open paycheck, as Williams is currently making bank (technical term) with Nike.
Sponsors are latching on to rising Asian stars in the hopes that it will help their brand recognition in countries like China, Japan, and South Korea, and players are considering signing with Asian brands over companies like Nike, Reebok, or Under Armour to expand their imprints abroad as well.
Osaka’s immense talent aside — which would be enough to net her this massive check regardless of her heritage — is a prime example of Western brands embracing players in untapped markets and paying them in accordance with the marketing value they have.
Compare this situation to that of Simona Halep, and it’s all the more apparent how Adidas views Osaka’s potential. Halep’s deal with Adidas expired after a four year partnership and reports said that failed negotiations to renew the contract were due to Halep’s team asking for a larger check than Adidas was willing to give. That left Halep without a clothing sponsor for a significant chunk of time at the beginning of the year, something unseen with top players and astonishing for the number one player on the women’s tour. She made the Australian Open final and won the French Open this year before finally moving to Nike.
It helps that Osaka is one of only a few top Asian stars currently at the top of the rankings, alongside fellow Japanese player Kei Nishikori. Reigning Next Gen Finals champion and highest-ranked South Korean player Chung Hyeon is on the rise, and based on recent Junior circuit results Li Na’s wave of influence in China is about to sweep through the tour.
The Times also reports that Osaka is due bonuses from Yonex, Citizen, and Nissin Food Groups. Plus, she’s also going to be Nissan’s new spokeswoman, and if you wanted to gauge the excitement for things like that, well here’s this:
All of this sets her up to ask for even more from new sponsors who hope to hop on the Osaka train while her star is still rising. Even though she’s now a major champion, that star is very much still getting brighter.