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Wozniacki rapidly cashing in with sponsors
Published November 29, 2010
When Maria Sharapova hit it big after winning Wimbledon at 17 in 2004, she quickly became the envy of the WTA Tour, regularly earning more than $25 million annually, mostly in endorsements. Now, every pretty newcomer who enters the WTA upper reaches is invariably touted in one circle or another as the next Maria, so far inaccurately.
For the first time, one may be knocking at that door. Caroline Wozniacki, 20, earned about $9 million this year, one of the best hauls ever for a tennis player never to have won a Grand Slam. A lot of that flowed in from ending the season No. 1, including a roughly $2 million bonus from clothing sponsor Adidas. In total, about $6 million came from endorsements and appearance fees, the remainder from prize money.
Three new deals she will unveil this week will further inflate her bank account. Her smiling face (her nickname is Sunshine) will beam down starting today from a Times Square JumboTron to promote her new endorsement of Proactiv, the acne medication hawked by the likes of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
Wozniacki is also adding to her bulging holiday stocking deals for Turkish Airlines and Aquiss rehydration drink, which will grant her family distribution rights in their native Denmark and use the star as the center of its European expansion. A new blockbuster racket deal is also in the offing as she seems certain to trade in her old Babolat for a new brand.
“She is a pretty girl, she speaks four languages, she has the ability to be like Sharapova if she wins a Grand Slam,” said John Tobias, her agent with Lagardère Unlimited.
While Wozniacki might already be a legend in Scandinavia, she is hardly a household name in the United States. In fact, the Davie-Brown Index, a well-regarded service that measures athletes’ and entertainers’ popularity, had not even polled for her, though it planned to do so soon.
Jamey Sunshine, Lagardère’s vice president of talent marketing, said the companies Wozniacki works with had not requested popularity measurements, but the agency was now developing those figures.
European athletes traditionally have a tough time breaking through in the United States. Sharapova is an exception, but she’s lived in the U.S. since the age of 6 and has residences in Los Angeles and Florida. With Sharapova’s game in question and some of the top WTA stars’ commitment to the sport in doubt, the Madison Avenue path might be open for someone like Wozniacki, who reached the U.S. Open finals in 2009 and the semifinals in September.
Wozniacki is also a test case for Lagardère Unlimited, which plowed into the athlete representation business earlier this year by buying BEST, the agency that represented her. Lagardère is well-known for its fashion and entertainment magazines, as well as book publishing, so part of the rationale behind the acquisition was to use those resources for athletes. To date that’s not happened with Wozniacki, Tobias said, though he said having someone at Lagardère focus full time on off-court marketing deals would have been difficult at BEST.
The three new deals for Wozniacki should add several million more dollars to her purse annually, assuming she maintains her current range of ranking. She is also playing a New Year’s Day exhibition outside Bangkok with Kim Clijsters that will serve as the birthday party for the king of Thailand. Each will take in several hundred thousand dollars for the effort.