Aston Villa star Alisha Lehmann is a star on the pitch, but her work before and after matches has made her one of the highest paid players in the women’s game.
The star player is known for being a striker who doesn’t choke, having just signed on for another season with the UK club, based in Birmingham.
At just 24 years old, Lehmann reportedly earns $300,000 a year playing for Aston Villa, but her off-field ventures bring in much more.
PR expert Carla Speight likens Lehmann’s career — with her more than 15.2 million Instagram followers, higher than any other Women’s World Cup player — to that of retired superstar David Beckham.
“Alisha is the David Beckham of the women’s football world. She’s snapping up sponsorships with the likes of drinks, fashion and sportswear,” Ms Speight recently told The Sun.
“Like David Beckham, Alisha has realised football won’t last forever and she has to develop a lucrative career outside of it to secure her future.”
Lehmann has scored brand deals with the likes of fashion retailer Boohoo, sneaker firm Adidas and gamers EA sports. She was recently unveiled as the first female ambassador for sports drink Prime in a deal that Ms Speight says could be worth up to $2 million.
Lehmann also recently released a 2024 calendar, selling signed limited edition copies for $290 and regular copies for $95.
Alisha Lehmann criticism
But while she’s clearly making an impressive career for herself, Lehmann is often subjected to criticism that claims she is, bizarrely, too glittery to play football.
Even on the pitch, she’s rarely seen without a full face of makeup, incredible brows and long, manicured nails.
And if she misses a shot on the field, trolls instantly pounce to jeer that Lehmann should spend less time getting ready and more time training.
Her glossy sporting looks have become so scrutinised that she’s had to address the backlash, imploring the haters to watch her play.
“A lot of people only see the social side [of my life, via Instagram] and not actually how I play football,” she told The Times when asked about the negative feedback.
“About this, I’m sometimes disappointed, because I work hard every day. I train every day and I want to be the best player I can be. They don’t really know how I play. I’m always saying, ‘Watch a game please’ — and then they’re surprised.”
Lehmann also made it clear she does not plan to change or tone down her look to gain people’s respect.
“The message I want to give to people [is] that you can literally be however you want and still play football,” she added.
“Use make-up or do the things you like, do your nails, do your eyelashes, and still play football. It’s not a side you have to pick.”
Alisha Lehmann’s side hustles
According to PR experts, though, Lehmann’s wide range of interests makes her incredibly valuable as a brand ambassador.
“Collaborations with brands like Adidas, EA Sports, and Bootbag further highlight her appeal to diverse industries, from sportswear to gaming,” PR specialist Jack Cooper explained to The Sun.
“Her diverse content, from football training videos to lifestyle and fashion showcases, means she can attract a broader range of brand partnerships.”
Ms Speight points out that, if just one per cent of Lehmann’s Instagram followers buy her cheapest calendar, that’s $14.4 million in sales.
Lehmann also shares photos and chats with fans on the subscription site FanTime, where she charges about $130 per year or $15 per month. Again, if one per cent of her followers subscribe at the lowest rate, she’ll be bringing in about $1.6 million per month.
“Given that we know her engagement rate is around seven per cent, she could bring in even more than that amount in calendars, subscriptions — and she can do that for brands too,” Ms Speight added.
As Mr Cooper explained, Lehmann is part of a new sporting world in which athletes are more than just players.
“Alisha is breaking the mould,” he said.
“With a robust following on Instagram, she’s more than just a footballer; she’s a digital influencer and brand in her own right.”
— with Mary Madigan