If you weren’t aware of Andy Murray’s momentous triumph over Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last weekend, quite frankly you must’ve had your head in the sand. With peak viewing figures of 17.3 million, the clash between the world numbers one and two drew the highest TV ratings of the year so far, and triggered such support for the stony-faced Scot that many of us failed to indulge in the welcome sunshine.
The game drew similarly exorbitant ratings across the pond, with nearly 2.5 million Americans tuning in to witness the match – a boost for ESPN’s investment in tennis coverage.
But now Murray has finally earned the long-awaited accolade of Wimbledon champion, he’s got a whole new ball game to deal with: sponsorship deals.
His racquet handle is barely even cold, and already Murray has his eye on more sizeable deals to add to his contracts with Adidas, RBS, Jaguar and watchmaker Rado as he moves up the rankings towards bigger names and higher fees.
As much as it can represent a company or a product, a “brand” can also embody a person, and in order to scale the dizzy heights of celebrity endorsements, Andy Murray needs to make sure his brand is seen in a positive light by media and public alike – enough for a big-name company to want to associate itself with him. And as a sportsman with a reputation for being grumpy, that’s no mean feat.
From what we can tell, he’s already got a head start. Many would argue that the turning point came after last year’s Wimbledon men’s singles final, in which Murray was narrowly beaten to the title by Roger Federer. In his acceptance speech in front of the crowd and on live TV, he took the microphone, and, choking back tears, began with, “I’m going to try this and it’s not going to be easy” – an unexpected outpouring of emotion that was enough to prove to most of his critics that he does have a sensitive side. Big-hearted Murray also donated his €86,300 (just under £75,000) in prize money from the AEGON Championships to cancer charity The Royal Marsden following his best friend being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
In recent months he’s stepped up his use of social media in an effort to let his fans see the person behind the persona; he now has close to two million Twitter followers and is a frequent poster of personal photos and videos. Not only that – Murray also agreed to the production of a frank documentary about his life in a bid to further rescue his somewhat abysmal reputation. Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racquet was recently broadcast on the BBC; it seems Andy Murray as a brand is indeed on the brink of a reinvention.
Elsewhere in the corporate world, particularly in the USA, celebrities being paid to endorse a brand is fast becoming a thing of the past – or at least being creatively reinvented. A recent trend has seen famous faces taking on in-house roles within businesses, as the public becomes less receptive to celebrity endorsements and brands become more innovative and transparent about where they get their inspiration.
For example, fashion retailer River Island’s recent appointment of singer Rihanna as a clothing designer had more impact and benefits to both parties than if she were to just model for them: the company receives the creative input of someone with a very distinctive style and large fan base, and Rihanna herself gets taken more seriously as a designer than if she were to just be pictured wearing the company’s clothes. The potential value from these kinds of deals is more than monetary, and more and more companies seem to be adding celebrities to their payroll.
If all celebrities and companies were to follow this trend, in the future, we could see a brand new, happy Andy Murray designing a range of sportswear for a global retailer. Until then, he’s got his US Open title to defend in September, and could easily reach the dizzying heights of world number one by the Australian Open in 2014. Who knows what’s in store for the Andy Murray brand then?
Drew has left The Frameworks.