If you take a stroll along Sir Matt Busby Way, heading towards Old Trafford, and take a left down Railway Road, Mary Earps is waiting to greet you.Not in physical form, obviously, but in her iconic celebratory pose, arms wide and fists clenched, mouth wide open as she roars in joy. Earps is the Nottingham-born Manchester United powerhouse, the Lionesses’ moral compass, and officially the best goalkeeper in the world.
“Welcome to Manchester”, the mural reads, which is a nod to a time, in 2009, when Manchester City unveiled a billboard of Carlos Tevez’s controversial switch from Old Trafford to the Etihad.The artwork was created in August, initially for a commercial shoot to promote the 2023-24 Women’s Super League (WSL) season getting under way. It was then supposed to come down but, such is Earps’ popularity, it remains on the side of the house.
“We were told it was going to be a small sticker, so we were expecting it to be maybe half the house, but we came back after being away and it was the entire wall,” Sam, the homeowner, says. “We were told we would be paid £150.“As I was packing my stuff to leave to make arrangements for my dad, who had recently passed away, they called and offered us £500 if we would keep it up for six months. I just remember saying, ‘Yeah, sure’, as I had other things on my mind.“We got back a few weeks later to see that it was much bigger than we thought. There were rumours everywhere that we were being paid £5,000 for it, but that simply isn’t true!
Her stance against Nike during the Women’s World Cup in Australia was authentic, measured and cut through to a wider audience.“If you determine an athlete’s commercial value by their ability to endorse brands, sell products, together with on-pitch performance and their personal brand, demographic appeal and social media, then she is an absolute winner,” Lisa Parfitt, co-founder of sports marketing agency The Space Between, says.“The Nike scenario shows she has a real awareness of social issues and uses her platform to advocate for equality.“What was most interesting about that for her is that she has shown her influence to sell products. The irony was there wasn’t any product to sell. But Nike has since released goalkeeper jerseys and they sold out not long after being on sale.“That is incredibly powerful for any athlete to be able to show the impact and influence they have is able to drive commercial sales.”
Earps is represented by The Purpose Agency, which is part of the Aim Sky High Talent Group, led by Christina Taylor. Her current long-term brand deals include Swedish drink NOCCO. More are expected to follow in 2024.The athlete needs to have broader appeal in popular culture and that’s rare.“Mary has got the personality, opinions and she stands up for things that people care about when it comes to equality. That bodes well. She also happens to be the highest-profile goalkeeper in the world’s biggest sport.”