TOKYO (majirox news) — Japan women’s soccer defender Azusa Iwashimizu used to grind away at work four days a week until the Nadeshiko won the World Cup in July and qualified earlier this month for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Iwashimizu’s role in the team’s success led to team NTV Beleza offering her a professional contract so that she will no longer have to work part-time.
The success of the Japanese women’s national soccer team has significantly driven up the commercial value of women’s soccer.
Three cosmetics companies contacted soccer club INAC Kobe Leonessa’s ace striker Naomi Kawasumi after she said that she wanted to treat her acne following the Asian qualifiers for the Olympics. Negotiations are under way for her to appear in TV commercials. Other popular players such as team captain Homare Sawa and goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori are also in hot demand.
Sanyo Foods Co., Ltd. one of Japan’s largest instant noodle manufacturers, has made deals with professional team INAC, as well as signed individual contracts with the seven team members it produces for the national squad.
Family Mart, a major convenience store retailer, uses the national team to promote its new salads. INAC Kobe is also working with Bayern Munich, one of the world’s biggest clubs, to create a women’s world club championship to raise the popularity of the sport.
INAC Kobe said that it will form all of its players professional contracts for next year as fan interest has skyrocketed, with attendance rocketing to more than 24,000 at one game.
Sponsorship deals and team contracts are good news for Japanese Women’s Soccer League players because most are only semi-professionals and need to work part-time jobs to make a decent living.
“We would like to make Japanese women’s soccer leagues attractive for the next generation, so they can and will choose soccer as a profession,” INAC Kobe Chairman Hironori Bun said.
National team captain and star player Sawa agrees.
“It’s great to be able to play soccer during the day and to rest at night,” she said. “Japanese women’s soccer has just started out and we appreciate the sponsorships. But we are also aware that it is crucial to keep winning to maintain our popularity.”