#GlobalNews: « Canada’s tennis star Denis Shapovalov could be the next Federer when it comes to sponsorship dollars, too »


You’ve probably heard of Denis Shapovalov by now.

Tennis fans have been aware of him for a while, especially after he claimed the juniors’ title at Wimbledon last year. But the 18-year old from Richmond Hill, Ont. burst onto the national sports scene last month after beating Rafael Nadal in the third round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. He then proceeded to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open after an upset victory over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

READ MORE: Canadian tennis sensation Denis Shapovalov upsets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at US Open

The Canadian teenage sensation has already drawn comparisons with Roger Federer.

“He has the grace of Federer – it’s unbelievable,” former world No. 1 Mats Wilander recently told Reuters. “He really captivates the crowd.”

The Swiss maestro himself has taken notice.

“I loved watching Denis play,” Federer recently told the media.

“He really caught the attention of the tennis world, and rightfully so.”

WATCH: Denis Shapovalov defeated Rafael Nadal in a thrilling third set tiebreak at Rogers Cup Wednesday night, all eyes are on how far the teen will go. 

But sports marketing experts say the parallels extend beyond the court.

Federer’s demeanour off the field as always been as elegant as his game, Sunny Pathak, president of NewPath Sports and Entertainment, told Global News.

READ MORE: Denis Shapovalov confident heading into U.S. Open qualifying

“He consistently congratulates his opponents and thanks his fans for coming.”

Federer’s record-long run at or near the top of the sport is the main reason why brands flock to him, said Pathak. But his cool, collected image is part of it, too.

His sponsorship cheques net him around $60 million a year, the most of any athlete on the planet from endorsements, according to Forbes.

And many of those contracts run over a decade. His partners include Wilson, Credit Suisse, Mercedes, Rolex, Lindt, Jura, Moet & Chandon, Sunrise and NetJets.

So far, Shapovalov is following in those footsteps.

READ MORE: Ticket sales and enthusiasm up at Rogers Cup due to Shapovalov effect

When it comes to social media, he has shown that he has manners, recently noting on Twitter the absence of fellow Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic from the U.S. Open due to injury:

On Instagram, he is constantly thanking his audience, his sponsors and his lucky star for the opportunity to play with the world’s greatest:

Brands like that, said Pathak. And they like that he seems to genuinely have fun playing the game.

Eugenie Bouchard, by contrast, has talked about carrying “the burden of Canada,” as the country’s top female tennis player.

Shapovalov did have his own outburst when he struck a ball out of frustration during a losing match at the Davis Cup earlier this year. The ball struck chair umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye, immediately leading to visible swelling.

READ MORE: Canada’s Denis Shapovalov advances to semifinals after downing Mannarino

To be sure, it wasn’t the brightest moment in Shapovalov’s young career, but such incidents are “forgivable” when someone is as young as 17, said Cheri Bradish, chair of sport marketing at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

Younger athletes carry a bit more risk for brands, because their short history makes it hard to gauge their true potential, as well as their personality, noted Bradish.

But many sponsors will likely overlook that risk for the chance to pair up with a sports star who can connect with younger demographics, she added.

Shapovalov’s social media presence – his followers number nearly 87,ooo on Instagram and 28,000 on Twitter– is another box checked on many sponsors’ list of desirable traits, Bradish told Global News.

Shapo could cash in even if he doesn’t make it into the top-tier 

So far, Shapovalov, also known to friends and fans as Shapo, has won just over $352,000 in prize money this year, according to ATP, the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits. And he already counts Nike and sports nutrition brand Biosteel, as well as sports equipment maker Yonex, among his sponsors.

A continued string of victories is sure to heighten sponsor interest, but Shapovalov might still attract lucrative contracts even if he doesn’t make it into the top-tier of men’s tennis, said Anthony Zanfini, president of Toronto-based marketing firm Ambit.

“Canada is always starved for summer sports stars,” he said.

READ MORE: Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov upsets Rafael Nadal at Rogers Cup

Canadian brands can only welcome the emergence of another sports talent with broad recognition in a market where pickings are usually slim, he noted.

Others have enjoyed a similar advantage.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, has only made it past the quarterfinals once during his career, but he ranks third in Forbes’ latest ranking of top-paid male tennis players, with earnings of $33.9 million between June of 2016 and June of 2017.

That’s because Nishikori is the top player in Japan, which has helped him attract a wealth of endorsements, from both national and international sponsors, including Japan Airlines, instant Ramen brand Nissin, as well as Nike and Procter & Gamble.

Up here in Canada, Shapovalov already looks like “a big fish in a small pond,” Pathak concurred.

And that, it seems, is in and of itself a big win.

Note: « Previously Published on: 1 September 2017 | 6:54 pm, as ‘Canada’s tennis star Denis Shapovalov could be the next Federer when it comes to sponsorship dollars, too’ on GLOBALNEWS CANADA. Here is a source link for the Article’s Image(s) and Content ».

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