Nissan is known for singing in athletes into its brand. Usain Bolt was one of the most recent, who became the brand’s “Director of Excitement”, following the launch of the refreshed Nissan GT-R in 2016. Now, another headlining athlete is part of Nissan’s arsenal. U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka was singed into Nissan as the brand ambassador.
Armed with her powerful groundstrokes and strong serve, Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a women’s singles Grand Slam. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian-American father, she moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old and competes for Japan.
Naomi Osaka’s presence with the brand hopes to attract younger customers to the brand through her Japanese roots, as well as her drive for victory in her craft. Not only that, but Naomi’s biracial background sheds some light to what Japanese call “haafu” or half-Japanese people, who often suffered discrimination in a country with a largely ethnically homogenous population.
“This week has been a dream come to life, and I’m so honored to represent Japan and Nissan on the world stage,” Osaka said. “I was drawn to partner with Nissan because of its strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirit. The brand is always challenging expectations, and I look forward to bringing its vision for driving excitement to new audiences around the world.”
“Growing up, my dad drove a Nissan, so being able to be a brand ambassador now, it feels like I’ve come full circle,” she said Thursday, speaking mostly in English at the car company’s headquarters in Yokohama, according to Reuters.
As part of the partnership, Osaka will appear in global promotions and advertising for Nissan, and Nissan will support her activities as a tennis player, including providing Nissan vehicles at her tour destinations.
“With a combination of grit and grace, Naomi Osaka is not afraid to take on the best tennis players of our time, and win,” said Asako Hoshino, senior vice president at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “This is the same spirit of performance that Nissan has embodied throughout our history – exemplified most recently by the Nissan LEAF, which defied the odds to become the best-selling electric vehicle in the world. And just like Naomi, Nissan is just getting started.”
Naomi Osaka was born in Osaka, Japan, on Oct. 16, 1997, to a Haitian-American father and a Japanese mother. The family moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old. She lives in Florida.
Osaka turned pro in 2013 and qualified for the Women’s Tennis Association tour championship at age 16, debuting at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif. In 2016, Osaka qualified to enter her first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, and made it into the third round. The same season, she also reached the third round of the French Open and the U.S. Open.
In October 2016, she was the runner-up at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The performance earned her the title of “WTA Newcomer of the Year.”
In March 2018, she became the first Japanese woman to win a Premier Mandatory event, at the WTA Indian Wells tour.
On Sept. 8, 2018, Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a women’s singles Grand Slam.
World rank: 7th (as of Sept. 10, 2018)