TORONTO – Tennis star Milos Raonic has become the first Canadian man to play for a Grand Slam singles title, but big victories could also await him in the business world.
The Thornhill, Ont., native beat the favoured Roger Federer in Friday’s semi-final.
Sports marketing experts say victories like this one could make Raonic a more lucrative target for corporate sponsors.
“You need that sustained success in a sport like Milos has,” said Cheri Bradish, a sports marketing researcher at Ryerson University.
That’s why Olympic athletes, who are in the limelight just once every four years, don’t necessarily see ongoing endorsement success.
Raonic signed a sponsorship deal with New Balance in 2013. The deal was extended last year “for the length of his playing career and beyond,” according to a statement by the athletics company.
The 25-year-old tennis player also has deals with Rolex, Rogers, Canada Goose, Wilson sporting goods and Aviva Canada insurance.
Brands want the values and attributes of victorious athletes to be associated with their product in the minds of the consumer, said Vijay Setlur, sports marketing instructor at York University’s Shulich School of Business.
“Success is the No. 1 ingredient, but the athlete’s (marketability) is heightened if the athlete is well-versed in social media,” Setlur said.
Raonic has 280,000 followers on Twitter and 227,000 on Instagram. By contrast, Federer — a global tennis superstar — has over 5.6 million followers on Twitter and 2.1 million on Instagram.
But, said Setlur, Raonic also builds valuable connections with the public through the philanthropic Milos Raonic foundation, which helps underprivileged children and children with physical disabilities.
“The more he succeeds on the court, the more he interacts with fans off the court … he creates a stronger connection with consumers,” he added. “That’s something his brand partners can leverage as well.”
Setlur said he expected Raonic will earn a “stable of Canadian brands,” but did not foresee a major increase in deals south of the border, despite his existing deals with New Balance and others.
“The decisions made by the brand are made in the United States and those brands will most likey partner with American athletes,” said Setlur.
But Bradish said achieving stardom in a global sport might help Raonic land deals outside Canada too.
“If you’re an international athlete in an international sport, it does open the door for a multi-national, trans-national company,” Bradish said. “You’ll probably be most active in the Canadian market, but it allows for some activation on a global level.”