Naomi Osaka starts a media company with the help of LeBron James

She is a four-time Grand Slam champion in units, the world’s highest paid female athlete, earning $ 57 million in 2021, mostly from sponsorship. Walmart recently launched a product line of its skin care company, Kinlò, at nearly 3,000 locations. Last month he launched a sports representation agency.

And now Naomi is moving to Osaka, Hollywood – with the help of LeBron James.

The 24-year-old Osaka co-founded a media company called Hannah Kuma with SpringHill, a fast-growing entertainment, marketing and products company co-founded by Mr. James. Ms. Osaka said in a brief interview with Zoom that her ambitions for Hannah Kuma, which means “Flower Bear” in Japanese, include unscripted and unwritten TV series, documentaries, anime, and branded content that is an entertaining program with built-in or built-in content. advertisement. .

“I can not honestly say whether I will be involved in anything right now,” Ms Osaka said. “What excites me is that I was able to inspire people and tell new stories, especially what I wanted to see as a child. I always wanted to see someone like me. ” Ms. Osaka is of Japanese and Haitian descent.

Fans should expect Ms. Osaka’s advocacy to help Hana Kuma make at least a few offers, most of which are still in the process of being processed. Ms. Osaka speaks openly about topics that many elite sports stars are trying to avoid. He was an early supporter of the movement Black Lives Matter. Last year, he launched a global discussion on mental health in sports when he dropped out of the French Open, citing the need to prioritize his own well-being. He also revealed past struggles with depression and anxiety.

Ms. Osaka’s sincerity resonated in the audience beyond sports, especially with young people, making her a dream sponsor even though she had just fought on a tennis court. (He lost in the first round of the French Open last month. In a post on social media on Saturday, he said he would not play at Wimbledon this summer due to an Achilles injury.)

One development project involves the Culinary and Haitian communities. “I watch a lot of food shows, culinary competitions, because I love cooking,” Ms. Osaka said with a laugh. The first project credited to Hannah Kuma will be the New York Times Op-Doc about Petsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress. Hannah Kuma is also working on unspecified documentary content for Epix, a premium cable channel now owned by Amazon.

SpringHill, which co-founded Maverick Carter in 2020, will be Hannah Kuma’s financing, operations and producer partner. SpringHill has about 200 employees and was valued at $ 725 million when it sold minority stakes to raise capital. The operations include marketing consulting and a media and clothing department dedicated to empowering athletes. Another section focuses on film and television production. There is also a team of events.

“Naomi can simply unite what we have created,” said Mr. Carter.

SpringHill wants to repeat Hannah Kuma’s deal with other athletes who have a global appeal. “We want to do a lot more in the future,” Mr Carter said, noting that discussions had begun with other sports stars.

The question must be asked: is not this just a new futile deal? For decades, old line studios have been lending funding to favorite stars to start affiliates, most of which have never been in large numbers – other than to keep the star happy.

“Under the old system, sometimes they were left in vain,” said Mr. Carter. But the goal here is to turn Hana Kuma into a real company and a real brand. SpringHill’s focus on branded content sets it apart from old line studios, he added. Hannah Kuma was hired by FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, to produce branded content.

Mr. James said by telephone that Ms. Osaka’s “Grace and Power” on and off the field made her a good match for SpringHill, “which exists to empower the creators of athletes.”

“We do not consider ourselves in a position to lend a helping hand, in this case to Naomi, to help strengthen her, to do even greater things,” said Mr. James.

Ms. Osaka has 12 sponsors including Nike, Mastercard, Louis Vuitton and Panasonic. Her longtime agent and business partner, Stuart Duguid, said some may be involved with Hannah Kuma’s content. Mr. Duguid is the co-founder of Hannah Kuma.

“We really want to reduce that number and have a deeper relationship with those who continue,” Mr Duguid said, referring to corporate sponsors. “We want to take bigger swings and create companies, invest in companies, which could potentially have bigger results than you would in a McDonald’s deal and pay back from year to year. What drives the needle? ”

Creating a business portfolio – still in the middle of her tennis career – makes Ms. Osaka a pioneer among female athletes. Anyway, it will happen if he succeeds.

“We have not seen any female athlete do what we are trying to achieve,” Mr Duguid said. “Serena managed the business of the enterprise well. “But he is nearing the end of his career and, you know, we are in the middle.” He was referring to tennis legend Serena Williams, whose venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has raised an inaugural fund of $ 111 million to invest in founders of various walks of life.

Because she still plays tennis, Ms. Osaka will not sit in many production meetings. “But everything creative and everything strategic will obviously have Naomi’s stamp, her style and her accessibility,” Mr Duguid said.

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