By Mikaela Viqueira
New Delhi, Jan 20 (EFE).- Carolina Marin has made a name for herself as one of the best athletes in Spain, a country with otherwise little interest in Badminton, leading her to become a sought after face for Spanish firms in Asia, where the sport is popular and she enjoys the status of a queen.
Besides boosting Badminton’s popularity in her home country, the Olympic champion has also gained a huge following in a country like India, that worships sporting icons with extraordinary achievements.
Thirty percent of her 433,000 Instagram followers are Indians, 25 percent are Spanish, followed by Indonesians. Playing at the Indian Open, currently underway in New Delhi, she enjoys strong crowd support as if she were playing in her hometown, Huelva.
“Wherever I go, everybody recognises me in this country,” Europe’s current badminton champion, Marin told EFE during an interview in New Delhi, expressing surprise at the affection she receives in India even though it was Indian player Pusarla Sindhu that she defeated to clinch the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“It was something that pleasantly surprised me. They welcomed me with admiration and great love that I did not imagine, because I had indeed taken her (Sindhu’s) gold. I feel grateful because many times even when I go to the court and compete, I feel as if I were at my own house,” she added.
Moreover, with her success, Spain’s biggest brands have been vying for her endorsement, something rare for athletes who are not from a soccer or basketball background.
At the Indian Open this week, Marin’s sponsors are Movistar, Santander, LaLiga and Iberdrola, apart from Japanese sports equipment manufacturing company Yonex, considered the most credible name in the game.
“Carolia, at enterprise level, has caught the interest of Spanish companies,” said Ignacio Premio, Carolina’s head of communications.
Internationally popular brands, such as PlayStation, Toyota, Sony and Amazon, among others, have also been associated with her.
“We share the same values, which is fundamental to me, and I believe that this is teamwork, They use my image, especially here, in Asia, which is where I have the most powerful image, and at the same time I have the support of Spanish sponsors and I am representing this Spanish brand,” Marin said.
But, apart from international exposure, what makes Carolina Marin attractive to sponsors is “a very specific profile” because of the values she transmits, according to Paramio.
The three-time world champion is very relatable for sports fans and firms in Spain even though Badminton does not enjoy a strong following in the country, he added.
“The work, effort and fighting spirit, along with patience with injuries – these are not values that only Carolina upholds, but perhaps she has understood over time how to portray them in a very special way,” Paramio said.
Marin’s nationality is something “exotic” for badminton followers, who are mostly Asian, and this generates a lot of interest, given that there are “certain cultural similarities,” especially with India and Indonesia, Paramio said.
In India, she was even offered a role in a movie about Indian badminton player Saina Nehwal, who won bronze in the 2012 London Olympics.
“It is a big difference because there is a magnification here, it is a popular sport that is present everywhere on television, in the media (…) and in Spain is a little more difficult. It is true that with big titles that I have achieved, it has gotten noticed, but comparing it with India, there is still a long way to go,” Marin said. EFE