Russian pole vault Olympic Champ and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva has agreed to a multi million-dollar contract with China’s largest sportswear retailer Li Ning.
The agreement comes to a total of 7.5 million U.S. dollars–that’s 1.5 million dollars annually for five years. This agreement marks the entrance of a Chinese company into high-profile athletics marketing. And they are making a grand entrance.
“There is no athlete on the track circuit that earns that kind of money,” said a source familiar with the negotiations, “It is out of synch in regards to the track market.”
Isinbayeva, the IAAF female athlete of the year, has been under contract with Adidas. The world record holder is set to begin her indoor season this weekend at Donetsk, Ukraine, which would be her first opportunity to wear her new company’s attire at a meet, provided that the deal is finalized by that time. Isinbayeva opened her 2008 indoor season at Donetsk as well, setting a world record.
Li Ning was founded by Li Ning, the 1984 Olympic triple gymnastics gold medalist who last August lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.
While its agreement with Isinbayeva is its first high-profile deal, the company also has deals with NBA players Shaquille O’Neal of the Phoenix Suns and Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers.