On Sunday the sports business world got a great dose of hometown pride when Andy Murray became the first male Brit in over 70 years to win The Championships, Wimbledon. The celebration for citizens, and the sigh of relief for British tennis was felt around the globe, and immediately stories started to surface about the millions in endorsements Murray would have. He is already, according to Forbes, the third highest paid athlete in the UK, behind Riddick Bowe and David Beckham, and the win, coupled with his Olympic success and a US Open title, should move him up, correct?
Well maybe yes, maybe no. There is no doubt that Murray’s win increases his value, both for existing partners like adidas and for new opportunities, but will he have the time, or the interest, to really invest in his brand? Andy Murray is an amazing athlete who has now entered rarefied air. However he is also engaged in a sport with very little downtime and a schedule which gives him next to no time to engage a brand strategy immediately, like a team athlete, or say, a boxer, could, After the round of interviews there is no vacation, it is on to the schedule for the US hardcourt championships leading to the US Open. He has also not been an athlete with great public interest in things outside of tennis. He hasn’t shown a flair for design like a Venus Williams, or a penchant for great fashion like Roger Federer. He does not have the flamboyance of a Nadal. He, to this point, is a great tennis player with an interest in…tennis.
Now that doesn’t mean he can’t make millions licensing his likeness, adding patches and doing deals that are low hanging fruit for the athlete on the go. Watches, tennis equipment, beverage, are all there for the taking. However to get to the rarefied air of a Beckham, or a Michael Jordan or even a Serena Williams the superstar has to take great amounts of time to help plot out his or her strategy with their team of advisors and then allot large amounts of time on both engagement and investment with those brand partners. That is not easy to do. For sure there are many athletes and celebrities who take the less is more approach. Few endorsement at high dollars raises the value. There are others who put great time into philanthropy vs. commercialism as well. Doing it all, and joining a pantheon of global marketing brands, is very tough to do, and the pressure that has been lifted by Murray’s win can easily tripe if he starts doing deals that require great time and can’t be fulfilled properly. The good news is the virtual world can deliver Murray to brands and products who may not need in to physically do endorsements. The bad news is those choices can be a bit more high risk and sometimes a little less lucrative. Either way, he is a global success story for the right brands.
There is no doubt that those advising Murray have waited for this day, and he deserves all the benefits that come with it. From a business standpoint now it will be interesting to see how his brand, his personality and his focus grows or plateaus with his decisions on business. Being a Wimbledon champion, and a Brit, is something that will ever go away. It will be with him forever, and the opportunities to capitalize on that will never cease. How fast he acts, if he chooses to, will be the fun piece to follow for now.
Regardless it is a great story for tennis, and a nice lift for the UK.