How Emma Raducanu has outgunned Federer, Djokovic and Osaka in fan engagement – and what it means for her future
One of Raducanu’s Instagram posts yielded more engagement than that by any other player in the three months covering Wimbledon and the US Open
Having made history by winning the US Open last month, Emma Raducanu is fast becoming the darling of the WTA Tour. When the Linz Open announced on Monday that she will be playing in this year’s event, they referred to the Briton as the “New Tennis Queen”.
The 18-year-old is already proving to be hot property on and off the court, with a high-profile deal as the new face of Tiffany and Co in the bag and doubtless many more to come. Raducanu captured the attention of the world when she attended the Met Gala in New York and had the cameras snapping again when she played tennis with the Duchess of Cambridge, before casually popping into the world premiere in London of the new James Bond film (video here).
At 18, Raducanu still has a long way to go if she’s to cement herself at the top of the game but, when it comes to social media, she is already knocking it out of the park. According to research by Fan Engagement Analysts “Mediacells“, one of Raducanu’s Instagram posts received more fan engagement than any other tennis player in the period July 9-October 1, outstripping Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and the rest of her peers.
Mediacells examined the Instagram posts of the world’s leading players in that near three-month period and found that Raducanu’s post of September 12 received more fan engagement – 1.2 million – than any post by any other player in that time period.
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“The key to Emma’s incredible fan engagement lies in the naturalness and transparent, innocent euphoria in a lot of her posts which make her accessible and authentic,” Brad Rees, the CEO and co-founder of Mediacells told Tennis Majors. “Even her win at Flushing Meadows was a masterclass in authenticity, which resonated with her peers and older audiences as both recognised genuine euphoria in her simple post, ‘we are taking her HOMEEE!!!'”
From 10,000 Instagram followers to 2.1 million in three months
When Wimbledon began in June, Raducanu was ranked No 338 and though many people knew she was a big talent, few would have expected her to make the impact she did. Reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon put her into the nation’s living rooms and by the time she was done there she was ranked No 150.
According to analytics company Social Blade, Raducanu’s Instagram followers rose from 10,310 on June 21 to 388,692 by the end of Wimbledon. Going into the US Open, she had grown her audience to 411,000 but by the time she was finished at Flushing Meadows, with a first Grand Slam title to her name, she had more than 2.1 million Instagram followers.
“The trend in player-influencers is growing fast with football and basketball stars like Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi, Neymar and LeBron James attracting combined audiences on Instagram close to 900 million, which is 10 times the largest Super Bowl audience,” Rees said.
“Emma has a way to go before she enters into these audience arenas but size is not always everything. Engagement is king and as you can see from the Mediacells Player Influencers Most Engaging Posts table, she holds the record for the number one post in tennis from July to October, ahead of Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka and Roger Federer – so the future looks very bright.”
Emma has a way to go before she enters into these audience arenas but size is not always everything. Engagement is king.Brad Rees, CEO and co-founder of Mediacells
With a Chinese mother and Romanian father, Raducanu already has a lot of bases covered when it comes to broadening her reach, and after her US Open win, the Chinese government celebrated her heritage. But the relationship between sports stars and social media is a delicate one.
Players like it because it enables them to connect directly with their fans – as Raducanu did when speaking in Mandarin – but the downside is the horrible abuse some of them receive; the kind of racist abuse aimed toward Osaka, Serena Williams and other non-white players; to body-shamers and to abuse from gamblers who are angry that their bet didn’t land.
Social media not always a healthy environment
As Roger Federer pointed out in a recent interview with British GQ magazine: “For every 10 nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on. It’s a horrible situation.”
Raducanu showed rare maturity on the court at the US Open, where she won 10 matches in a row to become the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam title. But she also showed maturity off the court, too, handing her phone to her team for much of the tournament to avoid the distraction.
Federer said he didn’t know how he would have coped if social media had been around in the first 10 years of his career. Instagram is not the usual platform of choice for haters – most of that comes through Twitter and Facebook – but it’s still worth noting that though the vast majority of Raducanu’s Instagram comments – and those of Osaka, Federer and Serena Williams – are positive, there are always one or two negative ones, sometimes more.
WTA educating players about dangers
In an email, the WTA told Tennis Majors that it works closely with players to educate them on the perils of social media.
“Player safety is the WTA’s number one priority. The WTA has been working for several years to educate and counsel players on this issue, as the number of players affected continues to increase and it’s an important issue we take very seriously. We remain committed to continue working with the social media companies urging them to find ways of making the platforms a place for the sharing of experiences, information and expression of views, not a platform for harassment and/or the abuse of individuals.
The WTA work with the social media platforms to shut down accounts when warranted, and if applicable, local authorities are notified.The WTA to Tennis Majors
“The WTA, through a relationship with Theseus, a risk assessment and management company, provides specialized evaluation, guidance, protection, resources, and support for our athletes if they encounter online harassment.
“Theseus and the WTA work with the social media platforms to shut down accounts when warranted, and if applicable, local authorities are notified. Working with Theseus allows the WTA and the players to take the most appropriate action, while enabling WTA players to safely keep their social media accounts and use them to communicate and share exciting highlights, stories and news to their fans.”