The Emma effect: The rise and rise of Raducanu

Emma Raducanu has seen quite the meteoric rise since winning the US Open last year. (Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu has seen quite the meteoric rise since winning the US Open last year. (Getty Images)

This time last year Emma Raducanu was was worrying about her A-level results and crossing her fingers for a wildcard entry to Wimbledon.

Fast forward twelve months and the 19-year-old tennis ace is about to step out onto the championship's Centre Court, holding the hopes of the nation firmly in her racket-toting hands.

It's hard to overstate Raducanu's incredible rise to fame.

At Wimbledon last year few tennis fans knew her name. Now, she's scooping prestigious deals with billion pound companies, playing tennis with royals and rubbing shoulders with the A-list on the red carpet.

Believe it or not it has been just nine months since Raducanu made history by becoming the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam tournament when she beat Leylah Fernandez to scoop the trophy at the prestigious New York-based US Open, but a lot has changed in that time.

In the hours that followed her big win, Raducanu saw her Instagram following jump by one million people in just 36 hours and now her follower count stands at an impressive 2.4 million.

Not only did the newly crowned champion land a £1.8m cheque when she became the UK’s first female Grand Slam champion in 44 years, but the big win also catapulted her to new heights in the celebrity stakes.

The tennis star rubbed shoulders with royalty and the A-list at the premiere of No Time To Die, last year. (Getty)
The tennis star rubbed shoulders with royalty and the A-list at the premiere of No Time To Die, last year (Getty)

A red carpet regular

Fresh from her big win on the tennis stage, the teenager swapped her tennis whites for something altogether more glamorous to attend the Met Gala, otherwise known as the biggest event on the fashion calendar.

Looking very at home on the famous Met Gala steps, Raducanu sparkled in a printed monochrome ensemble designed by Virginie Viard for Chanel, featuring a cropped top, midi-length skirt and pearl-embellished belt.

A week later, and, having returned to her hometown, London, the tennis star kept up the glow-up in a sparkly pleated skirt and embellished, halter-neck two-piece by Erdem to attend a ritzy dinner hosted by British Vogue and Tiffany & Co.

Read more: Wimbledon: Photos of the Royal Family holding court over the years

Emma Raducanu attends The 2021 Met Gala in Chanel just after her US Open win. (Getty)
Emma Raducanu attends The 2021 Met Gala in Chanel just after her US Open win. (Getty)

Swapping her trainers for silver sandals, Raducanu mingled with other A-list guests including Idris Elba, model Jourdan Dunn and actor Claire Foy.

As well as cementing her status at the top of the guest-list for A-list parties, the event marked another turning point for the star in terms of non-sporting growth as it was revealed she had been signed up as an ambassador for luxury jewellery firm Tiffany & Co, whose bling she sported during her US Open stint.

"Very excited to join the iconic Tiffany & Co family as a House Ambassador," she wrote in a post announcing the news to Instagram.

"Being able to wear these special jewellery pieces over the past few weeks has been an honour."

Watch: ‘I’m just a normal kid, a normal 19 year old’, says Emma Raducanu

A deal with Dior swiftly followed, with Raducanu revealed to be the new face of the French fashion house's womenswear and beauty collections in October 2021.

The tennis ace's outfit at the No Time to Die premiere on September 28 offered a hint at the newest addition to Raducanu's CV.

She arrived at the glittering event wearing a one-shouldered gown from the Dior Cruise 2022 collection. The Grecian-inspired gown was the brainchild of Maria Grazia Chiuri, head of womenswear at Dior, and someone that Raducanu is clearly a fan of.

“Maria Grazia’s work empowers women to feel confident in the iconic Dior cut, which I feel is very unique,” Raducanu told British Vogue.

“The sincerity of her approach and the way she turns shows into collective and meaningful events unquestionably influenced me in my choice.”

Read more: Sandra Bullock and five other celebs who've been open about experiencing burnout

Raducanu attends an intimate dinner and party hosted by British Vogue and Tiffany & Co, September 2021. (Getty)
Raducanu attends an intimate dinner and party hosted by British Vogue and Tiffany & Co, September 2021. (Getty)

The Emma effect

No doubt other big brands are also hoping to capitalise on the Emma Effect, which has seen the teenager, who sat her A-levels last year, become something of a style icon and fashion influencer.

Proof of Raducanu's increasing purchase-power was evident when the red and blue Nike set she wore throughout the US Open, which comprised the £50 Nike Fall NY Slam Tank and £60 matching skirt, quickly sold out.

According to fashion search platform Lyst, in less than 48 hours following her US Open win, online searches for Nike’s tennis shoes spiked 86% whilst searches for the brand jumped 41%.

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge plays tennis with Emma Raducanu.

But despite being considered hot property, Raducanu is taking her rise to fame a day at a time, insisting that she doesn't feel any pressure.

“I’m still only 18 years old," she said after her US Open victory. "I’m just having a free swing at anything that comes my way.”

She went on to joke that her first goal at the US Open had been to earn enough money to replace her lost Apple Airpods.

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge's brother shares mental health tips: 'I believe in the outdoors'

But it is likely the last nine months may have taught the star she might need to set her initial modest goal a little higher, with PR and brand experts predicting that Raducanu could become Britain's first billion-dollar sports star.

"Emma Raducanu’s rise to stardom has been meteoric yet she has done it in a quiet and understated manner," explains PR expert, Anthony Burr.

"What cannot be understated, however, is the potential to become a global sporting icon and a marketing dream for brands and sponsors alike."

Emma Raducanu celebrates winning the 2021 US Open. (Getty)
Emma Raducanu celebrates winning the 2021 US Open. (Getty)

Burr draws comparisons with with other young sporting stars who have turned into global brands in their own right.

"It reminds me of when Tiger Woods burst on to the world scene with an epic Masters victory and Lewis Hamilton began winning Formula 1 races with driving skills never seen before in someone so young," he explains.

"These were trailblazers who not only were set to be the best at what they did, but also cut across racial and cultural divides and were able to be poster boys for future generations, proving that golf and motor racing were no longer ‘white men’s sports’."

The rise of Raducanu

But what it is specifically about Raducanu that has captured the hearts of the globe and made her such hot property in the branding-stakes?

Laura Weldon, creative director at branding agency Studio LWD believes Raducanu differs from most popular figures in the limelight given that she never set out to become an international celebrity.

"She was determined to do what she loved and just wanted to demonstrate her tennis talent," she explains. "As a result, the public have known her as a very authentic teenager living the life of a teenager right from day one.

"She didn't have to develop a new personal brand or celebrity persona before she hit the limelight because she never set out to become one."

Weldon also believes part of the appeal is the fact that the British public love a success story, particularly in pandemic-laced times.

"Not only have our views changed on success, but we also strive for positivity - Emma ticks all boxes here," Weldon continues.

"She's genuinely worked hard to get to where she is and the fact she's won the public over with her tennis talent alone is even better."

The Duchess of Cambridge talks to British US Open champion Emma Raducanu on September 24, 2021. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images for LTA)
The Duchess of Cambridge plays a game of tennis with US Open champion Emma Raducanu. (Getty Images for LTA)

So what does the future look like for Emma Raducanu?

Bright, of course, with Burr predicting she will be able to pick and choose the brands she wants to align with.

"Currently she has contracts with Nike and Wilson, but as we have seen with dispensing her coach, she won’t be afraid to make hard decisions," he adds. "And right now she has the power and influence to do so.

But that doesn't mean she will jump at every opportunity that comes her way.

"Emma is Gen Z and will therefore possibly be a little cynical when it comes to promoting brands, especially if their values aren't aligned to hers," Weldon warns. "I suspect fashion, sports, and media brands will be desperate to work with her though."

Read more: As Tom Cruise is praised for holding Kate's hand, what are the rules on touching royals?

And don't be expecting Raducanu to lose her voice either, particularly on her social media platforms.

"She’s of a generation where it’s second nature to take to social media and so she knows what she’s doing," Weldon explains.

"This means there’s not that awkward disconnect of somebody else managing her social media profiles and she will likely do it herself."

Not bad for a teenager who was sitting her A-levels last summer.

"The sky is not even the limit for her," adds Burr. "I can see her hitting the first tennis ball from space on board Elon Musk’s spaceship in the future.

"Soon, everyone on the planet will not know who she is, if they don’t already."

The Emma Effect is just getting started.