This week it was announced that Russian tennis champ Maria Sharapova has renewed her sponsorship agreement with Nike for $70 million (yikes) over the next eight years, the largest endorsement deal for a female athlete in history. The contract tops Venus Williams’ five-year, $45-million deal signed with Reebok in 2000, and includes the launch of a clothing line designed by Sharapova, for which she will get a share of the profits.
Nike, the world’s largest athletic-shoe maker, has worked with the Russian tennis player for 11 years. Since winning Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17, Sharapova has become one of the biggest draws on the WTA Tour and the world’s best-paid female athlete.
The deal extension comes less than a year after Sharapova returned from a right-shoulder injury that sidelined her for nine months and forced her to undergo surgery. The best part of the new eight-year deal with the 22-year-old athlete is that Nike is looking beyond her retirement. And Masha’s agent has said that she’s becoming more and more interested in having a hands-on creative role in companies she’s works with as well as an ownership stake.
Sharapova currently makes close to $22 million a year in prize money and from endorsing companies including Tiffany & Co., Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Ltd. and Canon Inc., according to Sports Illustrated. She was the only woman in the magazine’s July list of the top 20 highest-earning non-U.S. athletes.
Sharapova has won 20 Women’s Tennis Association titles including three majors. In August 2005 she became the first Russian female tennis player to be ranked number one in the world. She took a 10-month break from the court after undergoing shoulder surgery in July 2008, but has proven herself a force to be reckoned since her comeback, advancing to the semi-finals of the French Open last year and pulling her world ranking up to 14th.