Serena Williams is nothing short of dominant on the tennis court. The World No. 1 is also starting to transition some of that dominance to her off-the-court game, particularly her endorsement game.
With deals ranging from Nike to Gatorade and even a brand-new social media “challenge” campaign with Pepsi, Williams is building her presence away from the game and, most importantly, raking in the cash. She’s not at Maria Sharapova levels, yet, but as she gets ready to go after yet another Wimbledon title, Williams is closing that margin as quickly as she’s sending the ball over the net on a serve.
Here’s what you need to know about Williams’ endorsement deals:
1. Williams Has Up’ed Her Endorsement in the Past Year, Closing the Gap With Maria Sharapova
Forbes lists Williams as No. 47 on the list of the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2015 and No. 55 on its most recent list of power women. Overall, she has won $72 million in prize money, more than double what No. 2 on the list, Maria Sharapova, has made.
But still, Williams can’t quite match Sharapova in endorsement deals. Why? That’s actually a very complex question and one that does not seem to have an easy answer. Sharapova is far from reaching William’s on-court success but Forbes suggests that the Russian standout’s good-looks may play a factor in working deals. It also doesn’t help William’s endorsement-cause that tennis, still, is not an entirely main stream sport. Yes, she’s dominant, perhaps the most dominant player to ever pick up a racket, but she is also on the fringe of the athletic world and, sometimes, it’s hurt Williams’ endorsement changes.
2. She was Named the Face of Pepsi Challenge Relaunch
It’s a brand new kind of advertising approach. Gone is the previous #PepsiChallenge of yore, a blind taste test of the soda against rival cola Coke. Now, the soft drink giant has recruited a handful of celebrities, including Williams, to spark a new wave of social media challenges, hashtag and all.
The yearlong promotion began in March and every month, Pepsi ambassadors will use social media to issue a new challenge that encourages consumers to, as the company put it, “do something different.” PepsiCo’s president told The New York Times:
We’ve taken the DNA of the Pepsi challenge, then reinterpreted it for a new generation. Now more than ever, we are in a world where the consumer expects to hear from the brands they love in whole different ways.
3. Williams Signed a Five-Year, $40 Million Contract With Nike in 2013
Nike and Williams announced an endorsement deal in 2013 that spiked the long-time tennis standout’s off-court presence. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Williams signed a five-year, $40 million deal, including sales royalties and performance incentives for winning Grand Slam tournaments and reaching a No. 1 world ranking.
So far, Williams has been doing a pretty good job of holding up her end of the Grand Slam bargain and the odds seem fairly good that she and Nike will eventually extend the deal, opting in on a possible three-year extension.
4. She Had Previously Endorsed Puma After Signing in 1998
Williams’ deal with Nike is a far cry from her early endorsement deals, including a less-than-pleasant experience with Puma, which signed the tennis player to a $13 million, five-year deal in 1998.
Williams’ shoes, Extrena, sold well but the company garnered the most attention when she wore a branded black catsuit in the 2002 U.S. Open. Still, the partnership failed to work out as critics claimed that Puma failed to use Williams’ name to leverage its brand and the two ultimately split ways.
5. Williams Also Works With HSN, Sleep Sheets, Mission & Owns Stake in the Miami Dolphins
Although Williams’ most profitable endorsements come from the usual suspects for a world-class tennis player, the World No. 1 has also taken an outside-the-box approach to her off-the-court business endeavors. That includes everything from posing as the face for sheet sets to even branding her own clothing line.
The Serena Williams signature statement line is sold exclusively on HSN and features just about any type of clothing any woman could ever even think about wearing. That includes faux leather visors and full length dresses.
As if that weren’t enough, Williams, along with her older sister Venus, bought stake in the Miami Dolphins in 2009. The two became the first female African-American to hold an ownership stake in an NFL franchise.