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The rebranding of Nick: Record year sees brands flocking to Kyrgios’ corner

All of Nick Kyrgios’s emotions were on show on Wednesday night.CREDIT:EDDIE JIM, GETTY, AP

The reinvention of Nick Kyrgios saw the colourful Australian register a career high in off-court earnings last year.

And one of the key men behind the renewal of the Kyrgios brand – US super agent Stuart Duguid – believes the 25-year-old can “eclipse” the marketability of tennis giants such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka if he ever wins a grand slam.

“In one sense, if Nick won as many grand slams as Roger or Rafa, he would be more marketable than each of them without question,” Duguid told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age from Los Angeles.

“If he won a 10th of what those guys won, he would eclipse them.

“But for the very top tier of marketability, you need a combination of charisma and consistent domination on the court.

“Roger, Rafa, Naomi, Serena, Tiger, LeBron, Ronaldo - they all have that in common.

“Nick’s world will change if he wins a grand slam – and I believe he can do it.”

Forecasting a surge in brand popularity past the likes of Federer and Nadal is bold but Duguid knows more about selling athletes to the world than almost any other agent on the planet.

He’s the man who helped guide Naomi Osaka to an eye-watering $48 million in sponsorships last year.

Duguid took Osaka’s brand to the Asian market and the Japanese superstar signed with 15 companies, including Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex. He maximised the attention on Osaka after she took a highly publicised stance promoting racial equity at the US Open last year, and then won the tournament.

Kyrgios liked what he saw and decided to make some significant changes to his management, approaching the American in July last year.

Duguid agreed to represent Kyrgios and immediately engaged the services of respected Australian marketing adviser Tristan Hay, who is well known through his work in Australian boxing, the NRL, the NBA and Major League Baseball.

In the six months since, the world No.47 has earned more off the court than he did in any of the eight prior years of his professional career.

“Our approach focused on telling Nick’s story a little bit better than it had been told in the past,” Hay said. “Nick is a really personable guy who has a clear point of view. It’s not a PR job or trying to tailor or redefine Nick.

“It was more about providing the right channels for Nick to tell his story. He doesn’t want to be manufactured or tailored to fit a brand.”

Kygrios barely played in 2020 but his off-court image appeared to change considerably.

A divisive and temperamental player, Kyrgios earned praise for raising over $90,000 in a bushfire appeal at the Australian Open, before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic saw him take on the role as world tennis’ critic-in-chief of players he believed were being selfish during the health crisis. Novak Djokovic was constantly in Kygrios’ sights, and remains so.

Having come across previously as sullen and insular, a maturing Kyrgios showed the Australian public another side his character.

Nick Kyrgios began to sway public opinion after he criticised tennis rivals for being selfish during COVID.

Nick Kyrgios began to sway public opinion after he criticised tennis rivals for being selfish during COVID.CREDIT:GETTY

The reasons for his return to popularity with sponsors – having been dumped by Bonds and Malaysian Airlines in the past – are three-fold, according to Duguid.

“First, due to COVID the endorsement market has actually shrunk on the whole but has gone more top heavy, which has benefited Nick,” Duguid said.

“There’s still a ferocious appetite to work with the most charismatic stars.

“Thirdly, this year has seen brands want even more than ever to work with athletes that are authentic – what you see is what you get from Nick and that’s what sells, especially in challenging times when we’re all in it together.”

Kyrgios’ stocks will continue to soar if he can upset Dominic Thiem on Friday night.

The pair have only faced off once, in 2015, when the Australian retired halfway through the first set.

In the years since, Thiem has morphed into the heir to Rafael Nadal’s clay court throne. He also broke through for a maiden grand slam win at last year’s US Open.


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