Cori “Coco” Gauff is already proving to be the exception to the rule. At this year’s Miami Open she received a wild card, aged just 15 years old.
This was swiftly followed by wild cards to both The French Open and to Wimbledon, where she progressed to the fourth round, knocking out her idol and former champion, Venus Williams along the way. It’s been announced Coco Gauff will enter the US Open at Flushing Meadows, breaking the WTA’s age-eligibility rules. Why is this talented 15-year-old being allowed such leeway?
This outstanding player from Atlanta, GA. pulled in remarkable viewing figures at Wimbledon, with Gauff’s third-round encounter with Polona Hercog, at one-point surpassing last year’s finalists. Her story captured the fans imagination and now, she is likely to see endorsement offers roll in.
Sponsors including New Balance, pasta maker Barilla and racket manufacturer Head, have signed Gauff up and with the backing of Roger Federer’s management company, Team8, she now has the world at her feet.
Yet sport, and tennis in particular, is littered with examples of those who rose swiftly and suddenly disappeared. Success and the spotlight at such a young age brings huge excitement and opportunity, but also pressure, which child prodigies are forced to cope with.
Traditionally in tennis, an athlete’s earning potential would be calculated by analysts as they incorporate two main sources of capital: tournament earnings and endorsement deals. In 2019, we at 23 Capital believe these two traditional measurements are only a fraction of the true value of a player like Gauff, especially when you consider image rights, digital opportunities and Intellectual Property (IP).
Players and athletes are negotiating better deals enabling them to hold on to their IP rights. In the past, sporting stars didn’t necessarily understand the true value of their IP and there weren’t many routes to exploit this valuable asset, outside of a traditional club or a sponsor. But there are now exciting new ways for them to do so. Players and athletes are far more IP savvy than ever before, and they are increasingly breaking down what was one macro bundle of IP rights, into multiple strands, where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
Hopefully Coco Gauff goes from strength to strength in New York in August and as her rise to the top echelons of professional tennis continues, her team and the tennis world will look to capitalise and explore new financial possibilities with this emerging superstar.