YOKOHAMA -- Japan's Nissan Motor Co. has signed U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka as its next brand ambassador, the automaker said on Thursday, tapping the tennis star's youth, drive and Japanese roots to appeal to younger customers.
The deal further raises the profile of the 20-year-old Osaka, who shot to international fame when she defeated American Serena Williams on Saturday to become the first Japanese player to claim a Grand Slam singles crown.
"Growing up, my dad drove a Nissan, so being able to be a brand ambassador now, it feels like I've come full circle," Osaka said, speaking mainly in English at a contract signing event at Nissan's headquarters in Yokohama.
Nissan said the passionate videogame player and Beyonce fan would appear in global promotions and advertising in its three-year contract, in something of a branding departure for a firm whose popular GT-R sports car attracts men aged 40 and older.
The biracial Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Haitian-born father and Japanese mother and raised mainly in the United States, has won over the Japanese public with her self-effacing, deadpan manner as much as her sheer tennis talent.
Glowing media reports called her a new heroine for Japan.
Nissan joins a growing number of companies to sign her up for endorsements, such as Adidas AG, Yonex Co., Nissin Foods Co., Wowow Inc. and Citizen Watch Co.
Having Osaka as a face of Nissan gives it an edge in appealing to younger drivers as it looks to boost sales of its Leaf all-battery electric car, and promote automated and connected-driving technologies.