Kuala Lumpur: Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Tuesday hailed World No.1 Saina Nehwal's recent multi-million dollar management contract as another sign of badminton's continued rise to prominence in sport's global commercial industry.
The Hyderabadi will earn an estimated $3.7 million (Rs.25 crore) in a two-year deal with IOS Sports & Entertainment. The company will manage her endorsements, appearances, brand profiling, patents, licensing and digital rights, images and visibility on social networking sites.
IOS wasted no time in securing lucrative corporate linkages for Saina with the announcement last Friday that she is the new brand ambassador for Edelweiss Financial Services, an Indian financial firm, and will feature in a 360 degree multi-media campaign.
"This is a great example for other badminton players of how on-court results can translate to financial rewards. This is the pay-off for working hard on your off-court presence and engaging with media, fans and sponsors. Just after a match whether having won or lost it is often exhausting to face the international media or appear at sponsor activities, but this is what is needed and expected from superstars like Saina," BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said.
"It's not just playing great matches but also exposure like this that builds a player's brand value while promoting the sport. Saina is certainly one of our most notable stars on the international badminton circuit and her sporting glory has led to her becoming a national celebrity and indeed a brand in India. She clearly understands the value of her brand and has been working hard to maximise it. This has made her a marketable commodity with whom companies want to be associated and she has a variety of endorsements."
The 25-year-old last month became the first Indian to reach the final of the World Championships where she lost to reigning title holder Carolina Marin of Spain.
"Earlier this year she went to Dubai to promote badminton and the Dubai World Superseries Finals and was a hit with fans there. This is one of the aspects which we have been talking to players about in our recent Players' Media Education Programme (MEP); about the benefits of projecting a positive image as an athlete and handling their off-court commitments professionally. These are the things that help make them superstars," said Lund.
During the World Championships, BWF presented a series of seminars to players regarding how they relate to the media, sponsors and fans and the impact it can have on their commercial value, as well as how badminton benefits as star players attract more attention to the sport.
"It's a good step for badminton to see superstars like Saina and Lin Dan (China) reaping commercial rewards. It proves the business world is assessing badminton's development and increasing popularity and how it can capitalise on that," said Lund.
Such developments, the BWF secretary general highlighted, complement other successes which badminton has been enjoying of late, including its ability to attract high profile corporate sponsorship, its advancement in the Olympic Movement and growth in its global broadcast household reach which now exceeds 500 million, with badminton being broadcast in more countries than ever before.
"Saina's success here shows how athletes and their sport can work hand-in-hand for mutual benefit," concluded Lund.
Saina is currently in Tokyo for the $275,000 Japan Open Superseries.