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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 8th, 2003, 08:56 PM Thread Starter
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Endorsement deal largest for a female athlete

Endorsement deal largest for a female athlete

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com
Monday, December 8

Nike is closer to becoming the most dominant force in the women's tennis world.

The shoe and apparel giant already has Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo under contract, as well as rising stars Daniela Hantuchova and Maria Sharapova. Now Serena Williams has agreed to a deal that sources say is worth at least $55 million over the next eight years. An announcement is expected later this week.

The contract is the largest endorsement contract, both in total value and average yearly payout, ever signed by a female athlete. If the 22-year-old Williams plays for more than eight years, Nike has the option to extend the deal, the sources said.

Keven Davis, who negotiates deals for sisters Serena and Venus Williams, would not comment on details of Serena's contract. Nike spokesperson Dave Mingey, however, said the company "has no deal with Serena at this time."

Serena Williams has worn Puma's shoe and apparel for the past six years and in July, seven months after her contract with the company expired, it appeared she was ready to renew the relationship. At the time, she told ESPN.com that she was "closing up things with Puma," because they would make it easier for her to make her own clothing line.

Over the past couple of months, Nike is believed to have agreed to give Serena design input on her signature shoes and apparel lines.

Venus Williams, Serena's older sister who signed a five-year, $40 million deal with Reebok three years ago, was once considered to be more marketable. But Serena has come on strong in the past two years, winning five of the last seven Grand Slam events and taking over the No. 1 ranking from July 2002 through August 2003. She finished this year ranked No. 3 in the world, after knee surgery in August cost her a chance to defend her U.S. Open title. Venus also missed the U.S. Open with an abdominal strain, and finished the season ranked No. 11 -- her lowest ranking since she finished the 1997 campaign ranked No. 22.

The deal will make Serena the highest-paid women's tennis player off-the-court with at least $15 million per year -- besting her sister, who makes about $14 million annually. That might not be the case for long, as industry sources told ESPN.com that Venus is in negotiations to extend -- and perhaps augment -- her Reebok deal.

Serena was a bargain to Puma. Since she was ranked No. 99 in the world when she signed in January 1998, and the company was only paying her about $2.5 million annually once she gained a Top 10 ranking. Serena also pitches Wrigley's Doublemint gum, McDonald's, Avon cosmetics, Close-Up toothpaste, and has a number of video game deals. Nike owns the largest share of the tennis shoe market at about 18 percent, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Nike has agreed to over $200 million in deals with four athletes over the next five to seven years. The company signed LeBron James to a seven-year, $90 million deal in May and fellow rookie Carmelo Anthony to a six-year, $18 million deal. Nike also inked Kobe Bryant to a five-year deal, reportedly worth at least $40 million, though it's not clear whether a possible sexual assault conviction will relieve Nike of its commitment.

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 8th, 2003, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
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Nike, Serena Williams near $60M deal
Daniel Kaplan
Sports Business Journal
Nike Inc. is close to signing tennis superstar Serena Williams to a lifetime shoe and apparel contract worth at least $60 million, sources said. An announcement is expected shortly.


The flamboyant Williams, 22, will stop wearing attire from Puma, the German sneaker and apparel maker that signed her almost six years ago but never leveraged her stardom to create a major splash in tennis.

Beaverton-based Nike, in the midst of a rash of blockbuster athlete endorsement signings, is clearly looking beyond the insular tennis world to justify the Williams deal, which will be the largest female endorsement contract in history.

"Serena is a fantastic tennis player, but she is also a globally well-known athlete," said Chris Bevilacqua, the co-founder of College Sports Television who was Nike's global negotiating director in the late 1990s. "If you are going to create one of the leading sports brands in the world, you are selling products to both men and women, and this will clearly help to market to women. It also has the halo effect of demonstrating the effectiveness of Nike as a global brand, not only in tennis but the category of sports."

Nike did not return calls seeking comment, nor did Keven Davis, the Williams family attorney who negotiates the on-court deals for Serena and her older sister, Venus. Puma could not be reached.

Nike has been aggressively marketing its apparel and sneakers to women, including the opening of several Nikegoddess stores. But the company has few globally recognized female stars, and even Nike endorser Mia Hamm took a step back with the demise of the professional women's soccer league.

Nike lost out to Reebok three years ago to sign Venus Williams, who inked what was at the time the largest contract in the history of female endorsements with a five-year, $38 million deal. Serena had received $12 million over five years from Puma. That deal expired Jan. 15, and she wore Puma without a contract this year.

Now little sister, who over the last two years has surpassed big sister on court, will pass her outside the lines as well. The lifetime nature of the deal covers the rest of her playing days. The six-time Grand Slam winner also could earn far more than $60 million, depending on the success of the apparel and sneaker lines Nike is to design for her.

She is expected to begin wearing Nike next month when she returns from the injury that has sidelined her since July. She is committed to play the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, which is scheduled for Jan. 3-10.

Her deal follows Nike's reportedly $90 million contract for LeBron James and multimillion-dollar deals for Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, all signed earlier this year. Wall Street analysts pointed out that with a $1 billion annual marketing budget, Nike could well afford Williams even if she scored more than $10 million annually.

"Why wouldn't they do it?" asked one analyst, who declined to be named. "It fits into their strategy of trying to develop the women's apparel business."

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Nike, Serena near $60M deal

Tennis star's pact would be the biggest endorsement deal by far for a woman athlete, report says.
December 8, 2003: 3:14 PM EST



NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Nike Inc., the world's biggest maker of sports apparel, is close to signing an endorsement deal with tennis star Serena Williams worth at least $60 million, a news report said Monday.

Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike (NKE: Research, Estimates), in the midst of a rash of blockbuster athlete endorsement signings, is clearly looking beyond the insular tennis world to justify the Williams deal, which will be the largest female endorsement contract in history, people familiar with the deal told the SportsBusinessJournal.

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The younger of the two Williams sisters will stop wearing attire from Puma, the German sneaker and apparel maker that signed her almost six years ago but never leveraged her stardom to create a major splash in tennis, the report said.

Three years ago, Nike lost out to Reebok, which signed Serena's older sister Venus to a $38 million, five-year deal, at the time the biggest for a woman athlete.

Serena, 22, had received $12 million over five years from Puma. That deal expired Jan. 15, and she wore Puma without a contract this year, the article said.

"Until we have a signed contract in hand, we have nothing to announce," a Nike spokesman told CNN/Money.

Officials at Puma were not immediately available for comment.

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Way to go Serena
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 11th, 2003, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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It's a win-win situation

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Mark Kreidler
Special to ESPN.com


And here's the coda to the richest signing (for the moment) of an endorsement deal in the history of women in sports:


Serena Williams has said she also wants to be an actress, but this contract puts a high priority on her tennis career.


It's all about the incentives.

Which makes it, really, all about the motivation.

On the surface, of course, Serena Williams is supposed to be immune to this sort of carrot-on-a-stick manipulation. Williams' record certainly indicates so; the woman has won five of the last seven Grand Slam events in tennis and held the No. 1 ranking for more than a year before yielding it in August and going in for knee surgery. She's approaching a Tiger Woods-like performance plateau, only -- since it's tennis, and she's a woman -- without the global mania. Our unprecedented current ability to hype sports stars duly noted, it's actually possible that Serena will go underappreciated as an athlete in her time.

Still, when the ink finally dries on her new deal with Nike, perhaps its most interesting facets will fall somewhere between Page 20 and Page Infinity. They're the details that spell out just how motivated Williams is going to have to be.

It is an eight-year endorsement contract -- if. It's a $55 million agreement -- if.

If Williams meets certain performance criteria, that is. If, one suspects, she plays at least as much as she has been playing on the tennis tour, or perhaps more than she has been. If she maintains, let's say, a certain ranking, or collects a certain number of majors, or ... well, they base incentives on something, anyway.

And what's fascinating here is that Williams would agree to such a deal when, you figure, she doesn't necessarily have to. Puma would love to have her back. Reebok already has her sister Venus under contract; why not go for the family doubles team?

That's why this deal shapes up as so much more about Williams than about Nike. From where we sit, this is Serena essentially putting the pressure on herself to not only stay in tennis but also stay focused within it, at a time in her life when there are only about 200 other things competing for her attention and passion on a daily basis.

This is about Williams ensuring that she still pays attention to tennis. And while you might hear someone somewhere decry this latest gargantuan athlete endorsement, you'll get no squawk from us. If it keeps Serena on the court and going for the kill, it's a win-win.

The easy shot these days is the one from the top room of the ivory tower; it's the one that despises the modern athlete for having options and taking them, or for saying yes to ridiculous contract offers or taking guaranteed appearance fees or, say, plugging Buicks while driving Bentleys. It's the easy shot, and it misses the mark by maybe a dozen light-years of reality.

In reality, modern athletes have options their predecessors probably never even imagined, much less could have forecast. Succeed in sports, even for a couple of seasons, and you're on a fast track to a second, third or fourth career as a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a "consultant," a full-time pitchman. Lawrence Taylor had his career in the NFL, collected his most lurid and seamy outtakes, and got himself a second wind as an, ahem, author.

Look, it happens. You consider everything swirling around the heads of the elite or the anointed in a given sport -- think Woods, or the daily buzz that is LeBron James just now -- and it's almost remarkable that any of them sustain any truly memorable level of performance for long.

Almost from the first year or two they burst into the national sports consciousness, Serena and Venus Williams -- not particularly embraced at the start, smeared by association with their controversial father along the way -- have seemed at times ambivalent about their lives as athletes. Venus has spoken openly of a retirement from tennis at some point -- indeterminate, yes, but by her words clearly a point well before her potential in the game was exhausted. Serena, for a while, seemed the less motivated of the two players until she caught fire and assumed her rightful place (considering her skill and power) atop the game.

She is there now, undisputedly the best player in the game if healthy. She has a chance to do some work in tennis that would stand for decades or perhaps a generation. But on so many levels, it is about focus more than it is about knees that work and rotator cuffs that remain whole. It is about maintaining a visceral connection to the sport by constantly being a part of it.

If Serena Williams didn't want that connection, then she needn't sign a contract that places tennis incentives square in the middle of the deal. She wanted the deal anyway. If it is nothing more than Williams finding a new way to keep herself anchored to a sport at which she so excels, she's done herself the favor of the year. More power to her. Which is, of course, the idea.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 15th, 2003, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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Sport's richest woman
By Stephen Wood in New York
December 13, 2003

SIX-TIMES grand slam champion Serena Williams has signed an endorsement contract with sportswear giant Nike that could make her the richest woman in sport.

And she plans to make her on-court outfits even more extravagant and revealing now she's in the Nike brand.

Sources close to the deal said Williams had been signed for five years with the option of a further three.

If Serena meets performance-related bonuses over the full eight years she could net close to $80million.

That would overhaul the $50million, five-year agreement between her sister Venus and Reebok and almost certainly surpass the endorsement earnings of Russian Anna Kournikova.

Williams, who became well-known for her unique tennis outfits made by former sponsor Puma, will be closely involved in the design of her outfits and those produced for the masses by Nike.

Williams has talked previously of her desire to pursue other interests outside the sport though she has said she plans to continue playing for another 10 years.

"She is one of the greatest athletes, male or female, in the world," Nike spokesman Dave Mingey said yesterday.

"We cannot reveal specifics [about how involved Williams will become in the design], but we will be working with her as both a woman and an athlete.

"We are extremely pleased that Serena will be joining the team of Nike athletes," said Riccardo Colombini, global director of the brand's tennis marketing division, yesterday.

Serena, the 22-year-old whose game was developed on the public courts of Compton, Los Angeles, has not played competitively since capturing her second Wimbledon title in July and her world ranking has slipped from first to third.

A knee injury, which required surgery, has kept her sidelined, although she is expected to return to action at this month's Hopman Cup in Perth.

Williams will then be one of the stars at the Australian Open in Melbourne, along with big sister Venus.

The Daily Telegraph

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 15th, 2003, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Serena Signs Nike Deal

12/12/03 2:04 PM


23-Time Singles Tennis Champion,11-Time Doubles Champion, including a 2000 Olympic Title, and winner of four Grand Slams in a row, Tennis Champion Serena Williams has signed a long-term Sponsorship agreement with Oregon-based Nike, Inc. The largest agreement ever of its kind for a female, the deal makes Serena one of the richest athletes in Sports history.


On January 1, 2004, one of the world’s most famous athletes will begin wearing the "swoosh" emblem. #3-Ranked WTA Female Tennis Champion, Serena Williams, has signed a long-term Sponsorship agreement with Nike, Inc.,
the largest ever of its kind for a female. In signing the deal, Serena becomes one of the world‘s richest athletes.

The Nike signing marks a new era for Serena, who, for the last six years, has worn Puma attire on the courts.

Says Serena, "I am extremely happy to be a part of the Nike family. The company’s innovation, creativity and worldwide marketing and retail expertise will be valuable assets for me. I will be working closely with Nike’s team of experts to design and create my tennis shoe and apparel, and will also be given creative input in its sports and leisure wear lines for the female consumer. I can’t think of a better company to be affiliated with, particularly with my strong interest in design and my involvement in the fashion industry. This will be a great partnership. I want to thank Mr. Phil Knight and all of the people at Nike, who worked so hard to make this agreement a reality. They won’t be sorry."

Keven Davis, longtime Williams family New York attorney, and chief negotiator for on-court deals for both Serena and Venus concurs, "Nike is a great place for Serena. She has become an icon who has transcended the sport of Tennis, and is known and respected globally, not only for her ability in tennis, but for her style and persona."


He continues, "Nike’s global marketing expertise and dominance, and its innovation is exactly what Serena needs right now as she enters the next level in her career. The company’s relationships with its athletes, and its design team’s hands on involvement in developing creative and quality performance products are other strong assets. This is the perfect partnership between the world’s most famous female athlete and the world’s leading designer and marketer of sports and fitness apparel."

Serena will make her debut in Nike apparel at the Australian Open, which begins January 19th in Melbourne, Australia.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 16th, 2003, 02:36 PM Thread Starter
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Why sneakers cost so much: Serena Williams, the tennis player, has signed a fat deal with Nike, the shoe company. She had a deal with Puma, but that expired and now reports say Williams will get as much as $80 million U.S. over five years. She'd get all of that only if she cashes in all the performance bonuses. There's a three-year extension, at Nike's option.

You'll recall that Venus, Serena's big sister, has a deal with Reebok, also said to be worth a maximum of $80 million over five years.

http://www.canada.com/montreal/montr...F-1C1629067DD6

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 16th, 2003, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Serena Aces on Nike Deal
Long-term endorsement, worth approximately $40 million, makes tennis star one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world
By Hamil R. Harris

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Serena Williams, the 22-year-old world champion tennis sensation, has signed a Nike endorsement deal that is worth approximately $40 million.

Williams, who has won 23 Singles championships and 11 Doubles titles worldwide, reached a five-year agreement with Nike officials Thursday after months of negotiations. Sources said that Williams was hoping to get as much as $60 million to become the latest big-name athlete to wear the Nike logo.

Williams told those who logged onto her Website, www.serenawilliams.com, “I am extremely happy to be a part of the Nike family … I will be working closely with Nike's team of experts to design and create my tennis shoe and apparel, and will also be given creative input in its sports and leisure wear lines for the female consumer…”

Dave Mingey, director of U.S. Media Relations for Nike, told blackenterprise.com, “We are thrilled to be partners with Serena. Not only is she one of the greatest tennis players in the world, but she is one of the greatest athletes -- male or female -- in the world.”

A source close to the negotiations said while Williams is pleased with the deal, she will receive “far less,” than the $60 million that had been on the table for weeks. But incentives and promotions, as well as a contract extension, could push her earnings over $50 million, which could make it the largest endorsement deal for a female athlete.

Serena and sister, fellow tennis star Venus Williams, have gone from the public tennis courts of Compton, California, to Wimbledon and now to Wall Street. The sisters are definitely no strangers to the advertising world. You may have seen them in ads for Puma, Avon, Wrigley's, and the 'Got Milk?' campaign. Three years ago, Venus signed a deal with Reebok reportedly worth $40 million.

While Serena is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, she has been on the sidelines since the match against Venus last July at Wimbledon. Serena said on her Website that when she resumes her career January 1, she will be sporting the new Nike logo.

Williams also said on her Website, “I can't think of a better company to be affiliated with …” and according to Mingey, the feeling is mutual. “We certainly are looking forward to working with Serena to gain her input not only as a tennis player, but as a woman, in order to develop innovative products for Nike.”

12/15/03

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old Dec 30th, 2003, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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In The Driver's Seat: Serena Selected Top Sports Celebrity In Survey

By Tennis Week
12/29/2003

Serena Williams showed an inner drive to succeed before she even earned her learner's permit and now her license to drive has attracted many prospective passengers. The six-time Grand Slam champion drives opponents into defensive positions, drives her fans wild and drives Americans home — in their fantasies.


In a new survey sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, American adults were asked to select one female and one male celebrity as their "fantasy" designated driver for an evening. The third-ranked Williams topped the list of sports celebrities as 30 percent of American adults polled in the survey selected Serena as their fantasy designated driver. The two-time Wimbledon winner was followed by golfer Annika Sorenstam (16 percent), New York Yankees short stop Derek Jeter (15 percent), Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (10 percent) and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (8 percent) in the survey.

The designated driver survey was conducted from July 16-27th, 2003, by the Data Development Corporation, Inc. The findings were based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,167 Americans ages 21 and older.

As part of its holiday campaign to reward designated drivers — "the true VIPs at any party or celebration" — Anheuser-Busch has launched a Designated Driver sweepstakes, which ends on January 1st.

Adults 21 and older are encouraged to enter their names in the Budweiser Designated Driver Sweepstakes for a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip for two to the concert of their choice at any Clear Channel-owned and operated facility between March and December during the 2004 concert season. Entrants may also win one of thousands of instant-win prizes, including a True Friends baseball cap, T-shirt or MP3 Player. Visitors to the site also are encouraged to say thanks to their favorite designated drivers by sending a thank-you e-card. No purchase is necessary to enter. The sweepstakes open to all U.S. residents (except those in CA and Maui County, HI).

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old Jan 8th, 2004, 12:10 PM Thread Starter
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It's a Win-Win Situation

By Mark Kreidler
Special to ESPN.com

And here's the coda to the richest signing (for the moment) of an endorsement deal in the history of women in sports:



Serena Williams has said she also wants to be an actress, but this contract puts a high priority on her tennis career.


It's all about the incentives.


Which makes it, really, all about the motivation.


On the surface, of course, Serena Williams is supposed to be immune to this sort of carrot-on-a-stick manipulation. Williams' record certainly indicates so; the woman has won five of the last seven Grand Slam events in tennis and held the No. 1 ranking for more than a year before yielding it in August and going in for knee surgery. She's approaching a Tiger Woods-like performance plateau, only -- since it's tennis, and she's a woman -- without the global mania. Our unprecedented current ability to hype sports stars duly noted, it's actually possible that Serena will go underappreciated as an athlete in her time.


Still, when the ink finally dries on her new deal with Nike, perhaps its most interesting facets will fall somewhere between Page 20 and Page Infinity. They're the details that spell out just how motivated Williams is going to have to be.


It is an eight-year endorsement contract -- if. It's a $55 million agreement -- if.


If Williams meets certain performance criteria, that is. If, one suspects, she plays at least as much as she has been playing on the tennis tour, or perhaps more than she has been. If she maintains, let's say, a certain ranking, or collects a certain number of majors, or ... well, they base incentives on something, anyway.


And what's fascinating here is that Williams would agree to such a deal when, you figure, she doesn't necessarily have to. Puma would love to have her back. Reebok already has her sister Venus under contract; why not go for the family doubles team?


That's why this deal shapes up as so much more about Williams than about Nike. From where we sit, this is Serena essentially putting the pressure on herself to not only stay in tennis but also stay focused within it, at a time in her life when there are only about 200 other things competing for her attention and passion on a daily basis.


This is about Williams ensuring that she still pays attention to tennis. And while you might hear someone somewhere decry this latest gargantuan athlete endorsement, you'll get no squawk from us. If it keeps Serena on the court and going for the kill, it's a win-win.


The easy shot these days is the one from the top room of the ivory tower; it's the one that despises the modern athlete for having options and taking them, or for saying yes to ridiculous contract offers or taking guaranteed appearance fees or, say, plugging Buicks while driving Bentleys. It's the easy shot, and it misses the mark by maybe a dozen light-years of reality.


In reality, modern athletes have options their predecessors probably never even imagined, much less could have forecast. Succeed in sports, even for a couple of seasons, and you're on a fast track to a second, third or fourth career as a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a "consultant," a full-time pitchman. Lawrence Taylor had his career in the NFL, collected his most lurid and seamy outtakes, and got himself a second wind as an, ahem, author.


Look, it happens. You consider everything swirling around the heads of the elite or the anointed in a given sport -- think Woods, or the daily buzz that is LeBron James just now -- and it's almost remarkable that any of them sustain any truly memorable level of performance for long.


Almost from the first year or two they burst into the national sports consciousness, Serena and Venus Williams -- not particularly embraced at the start, smeared by association with their controversial father along the way -- have seemed at times ambivalent about their lives as athletes. Venus has spoken openly of a retirement from tennis at some point -- indeterminate, yes, but by her words clearly a point well before her potential in the game was exhausted. Serena, for a while, seemed the less motivated of the two players until she caught fire and assumed her rightful place (considering her skill and power) atop the game.


She is there now, undisputedly the best player in the game if healthy. She has a chance to do some work in tennis that would stand for decades or perhaps a generation. But on so many levels, it is about focus more than it is about knees that work and rotator cuffs that remain whole. It is about maintaining a visceral connection to the sport by constantly being a part of it.


If Serena Williams didn't want that connection, then she needn't sign a contract that places tennis incentives square in the middle of the deal. She wanted the deal anyway. If it is nothing more than Williams finding a new way to keep herself anchored to a sport at which she so excels, she's done herself the favor of the year. More power to her. Which is, of course, the idea.

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old Jan 14th, 2004, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
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WTA TOUR ARE LOSING SPONSORS TO WILLIAMS'


09:00 - 14 January 2004
With the Australian Open tennis championships due to start next Monday, the presence of at least one of the Williams sisters in Melbourne is anticipated with great excitement by fans of women's tennis.

The game's governing body, the WTA, is similarly keen to see the sisters play in the season's first Grand Slam event, conscious that their presence continues to have significant commercial implications for the sport.

Such is the sisters' dominance of women's tennis that, increasingly, sponsors wishing to align themselves with the sport have only one primary commercial consideration: it is whether or not to deal direct with the girls or with the WTA.

Serena Williams' contract with Nike, concluded just before Christmas, means she has signed the biggest-ever sponsorship deal for a female athlete. The deal runs for an initial term of five years. Once performance-related bonuses are taken into account, the contract is worth between 32.3 million and 35.2 million.

It is not as though Venus has been left behind: her contract with sportswear manufacturers Reebok, which commenced in 2000, is worth a cool 4.7 million a year.

The Williams sisters are a commercial phenomenon, absolutely dominant in their chosen sport. But unlike the situation in say, men's golf, where one star has outshone the rest for several years, few commercial benefits of Serena's and Venus's playing monopoly have trickled down to the rest of the WTA field.

There are fears within the WTA that the Williams sisters are at the point where they are capturing a significant chunk of the total revenue that may have otherwise been destined for women's tennis. In effect, the duo are competing with the WTA for sponsorship dollars.

Currently, there is no doubt about which of the parties is coming out on top. Only Anna Kournikova gets anywhere near competing with the sisters when it comes to endorsing products.

Commercial success only accrues as a result of sporting prowess and the Williams sisters have proven their playing brilliance beyond doubt. The problem is that they are so dominant, they make several other extremely good women players look average which has an adverse commercial knock-on effect.

The rest of the WTA players end up on a downward financial spiral; sponsors do not want to fund players who are perceived as being second best and subsequently, sponsorship expenditure in women's tennis has tended to gravitate towards the Williams sisters.

Nor is the WTA having the best of times. It lost its principal sponsor, Sanex, last year and, conscious of the difficulty of finding a replacement, decided instead to attract regional sponsors.

To date, the WTA has failed to harness the tennis prowess and popularity of the Williams sisters for the commercial good of the women's game. Next week in Melbourne would be a good place to start. The matter needs to be addressed quickly - preferably before any more corporate sponsors consider adapting the same commercial strategy as Nike when it comes to signing big-name sports stars, often at the expense of their sport.

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