Sweetgreen bet big on Naomi Osaka. Then it doubled down.


Hours after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday, the three founders of Sweetgreen Inc. gathered on a phone call.

The salad company had embarked just weeks earlier on a marketing blitz created by its in-house ad agency that featured Ms. Osaka’s endorsement of its food as a form of self-care in social media posts, posters in New York and a billboard in Los Angeles. Now, she had dropped out of one of tennis’s top tournaments, citing her mental health.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” Ms. Osaka wrote in a statement posted to her social media accounts.

Ms. Osaka’s manager told Sweetgreen that she planned to leave the tournament roughly an hour before the social media post announcing her withdrawal was published, said Nathaniel Ru, a Sweetgreen co-founder and chief brand officer.

An expanded version of this article appears on WSJ.com.

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