The tennis world is in a spin over Naomi Osaka’s never-before-seen outfit.
The Australian Open champion recently signed a new apparel deal with sportswear giants Nike, switching from fellow high-profile sponsors Adidas.
And as she stepped out on court at the Madrid Open on Sunday, a number of experts noticed something very striking about her new outfit.
The Japanese star was sporting two other sponsors on her top, with branding for Japanese noodle brand Nissin and Japanese airway company ANA alongside the Nike logo.
But why is that significant? Because Nike never allows its players to plug other sponsors on its clothing.
It’s believed to be the first time in tennis history that a Nike-sponsored athlete has sported three different sponsors’ logos.
Almost all Nike tennis players have no shirt branding other than Nike. Li Na got away with two patches. @Naomi_Osaka_ is the first Nike tennis player to have three (plus MasterCard on visor) pic.twitter.com/fJEv4X4m9t
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 5, 2019
World No.1 @Naomi_Osaka_ adds 3rd patch deal to her portfolio with @Mastercard on visor. 2nd player in tennis history (IMG’s client Li Na) to have multiple brand patches on Nike clothes. Mastercard is 7th brand partner IMG brought to Osaka since beginning of US Open. #IMGTennis pic.twitter.com/WFba6KeRqK
— IMG Tennis (@IMGTennis) May 6, 2019
Chinese trailblazer Li Na was previously allowed to wear another sponsor’s logo, but even the likes of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods have been denied similar requests in the past.
Jon Wertheim of the Tennis Channel said he’d spoken to a sports marketing legal expert, who said Osaka’s outfit was unprecedented.
“In virtually all instances, Nike’s individual sport apparel endorsement alliances prohibit the athlete endorser from having any third-party commercial branding on the athlete’s NIKE-branded kit,” the lawyer told Sports Illustrated.
“The cash paid by Nike in such endorsement deals essentially includes a ‘buy out’ of all ‘patch deal’ branding the applicable governing body (e.g., WTA) would otherwise permit.
“However, in rare instances, Nike has not required a ‘clean shirt’; most notably, in Nike’s deal with Li Na and in its recent deal with Naomi Osaka.
“This is indeed the exception and not the rule for the Nike sports marketing gurus, and any such patch deals of course could never be any sort of apparel (or footwear) brand.”
The financial terms of Osaka’s deal with Nike have not been made public, but reports have claimed the 21-year-old will earn around $12 million.
It’s believed that only Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are on richer sponsorship deals.
‘New generation of female athletes’
“I’m proud to become a member of the Nike family and excited about getting involved in all of the opportunities Nike has to offer,” Osaka said previously.
“Nike has a legendary track record of writing history and I look forward to being a part of those moments for many years to come.”
She has won the last two grand slams, having become the first-ever Japanese player to win one of the four majors when she overcame Serena Williams at the US Open in September.
“Naomi is an incredible talent to add to our roster and help drive our commitment to inspiring a new generation of female athletes,” Nike VP Amy Montagne added.
“We are thrilled to have her join our team.”
Osaka’s ascent to the top of the women’s game has made her a hot marketable commodity for the world’s top brands.
She already has deals with Japanese airline All Nippon Airways, car manufacturer Nissan and watch company Citizen, amongst others.