Maria Sharapova will be playing in the semi-finals at Wimbledon today. This is the first time she has made it to a semi-final round in any tennis tournament since 2008. It is a big achievement for her and a big opportunity for women’s tennis.
“Women’s tennis, like a lot of individual sports, is in large part driven by having star personalities,” Jim Andrews, vice president of Chicago-based IEG Sponsorship Report, said in a interview with Bloomberg. “You’ve got to have at least a few marquee names that people are going to be interested in, especially for the casual fans.”
And there is no argument that the 24-year-old Sharapova doesn’t have major star power. She is the world’s best paid female athlete. From 2009 to 2010 alone she made $24.5 million, according to Forbes. She has endorsement deals with Tiffany, Cole Haan, Sony Ericsson, Evian, Tag Heuer, Head, and a $70 million contract with Nike. Now she is launching a brand of candy called Sugarpova which is expected to be available at the U.S. Open. “Sharapova is the one that TV executives are going to want in the finals, they are going to need her to draw ratings,” said Jim Courier, an American formerly ranked No. 1 in the world. No one in the U.S. “is going to pay much attention unless Maria is in the finals.”
Sharapova ranks 776th on a list of more than 2,800 people in terms of endorsement appeal, according to The Marketing Arm. She’s on the same level with actress Susan Sarandon, National Football League quarterback Donovan McNabb and singer Kelly Clarkson.