Coco Gauff may only be 15 years old, but she has already made quite the name for herself.
The New Balance-backed tennis pro defeated another one of the brightest young stars in the sport, Naomi Osaka, in the third round of the Australian Open today 6-3, 6-4. With the win over her Nike-sponsored opponent, she dethroned the tournament’s defending champion. (Gauff will face 12-year-old Sofia Kenin next.)
Although young, Gauff already has superstar potential. Her breakthrough moment came at Wimbledon last year, when she not only became the youngest player to qualify for the tournament but also had an upset win over a legend in the sport, Venus Williams. And off the court, her legion of fans is growing. Today, she has 649,000 followers on Instagram and 189,500 on Twitter.
She also isn’t taking her platform for granted and appears to relish the opportunity to become a role model. Gauff was quoted by the Express in July 2019 with the Citi Open tournament in Washington D.C. looming as saying, “I know that people are looking up to me so I know that helps a lot more because I know that people are watching. And I wanna be a good role model for younger girls.”
Her athletic abilities, paired with a winning off-court personality, has industry insiders excited for her potential to be a great face for any brand. And if she sticks with her current sponsors, New Balance is set up for a bright future with Gen Z consumers.
“She’s a very exciting player, a very talented player, and I think it’s starting to bring the brand some attention,” The NPD Group senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell told FN. “She brings a young fresh face and a tremendous athlete story. I think she really helps them with credibility with the younger consumer.”
Although Powell believes it’s too early to label Gauff the face of her generation, he said she has the potential to be what Serena Williams is to tennis and bring the level of attention similar to the eyes that came with the Kawhi Leonard signing.
“People are projecting her to be the successor to the Williams sisters. She could be in the public eye for some time and I think that’s all good for [New Balance],” Powell said. “It gives them athletic credibility, it gives them exposure to a younger, more fashionable consumer. This is all a win for New Balance.”
Siobhan Breagy, New Balance global marketing manager for athlete activation, believes Gauff has the ability to appeal to people of all ages but is particularly fond of the special bond she has forged with Gen Zers. What the exec finds most intriguing about Gauff is the athlete’s desire to “create a legacy for others to follow.”
“She appeals to Gen Z consumers by being informed and active on social media and beyond her performance on-court. It’s more captivating to follow her journey when you get to see her play during the Australian Open Rally for Relief exhibition match, at a Jaden Smith concerts or courtside with Kawhi Leonard,” Breagy explained to FN.