Naomi vs. Serena: A Battle of World-Class Personal Brands

    • Naomi Osaka beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday night.
    • The 23-year-old has one of the strongest personal brands in sports today.

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Naomi Osaka is headed to the Australian Open final after a decisive victory against her idol Serena Williams, who was going for a record-tying 24th major title.

Osaka beat Williams for her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open, and will face Jennifer Brady on Saturday night for a chance at her fourth. The 23-year-old is often considered Williams’ heir apparent due to her on-court dominance, but she’s following in her footsteps in business, too.

With $34 million in endorsements and $3.4 million in winnings, Osaka was the highest-paid female athlete on Forbes’ 2020 list of top athlete earners. This year, she’s added Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer and Workday to a list of sponsors that already includes Nike, Beats, Mastercard and several others.

If Osaka wins the Australian Open, she’ll earn another $2.13 million in prize money — or $1.16 million as a runner-up.

Though her portfolio doesn’t yet measure up to the 50-plus companies Williams has invested in through Serena Ventures, Osaka is off to a strong start with equity stakes in Hyperice and BodyArmor.

She also purchased an undisclosed ownership stake in National Women’s Soccer League club, the North Carolina Courage. The move was inspired in part by Serena and her daughter Olympia, who each own a stake in Los Angeles’ new NWSL club, Angel City FC.

“I’ve been seeing this sort of ongoing thing where other athletes are investing in other sports,” said Osaka. “I remember reading in an article that Serena’s daughter invested in a soccer team. I thought that maybe that’s a really good direction to go.”