Marketing 50

Maria Sharapova

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Max Eisenbud knows patience. He knows talent when he sees it, too, but he knows patience. While many believe that 18-year-old Maria Sharapova's endorsement success took off after winning Wimbledon in 2004, she was actually an IMG client since 11 and signed with Nike at 13, albeit just for a small amount of apparel.

But Mr. Eisenbud, her agent at IMG, part of a team that includes marketing guru Alan Zucker, laid the groundwork that exploded in the last year.

While her striking good looks have led to the obligatory comparisons to another tennis bombshell-Anna Kournikova-Ms. Sharapova has a bit of an edge in that, well, she's good.

She won Wimbledon last year, has won three tournaments this year and has consistently made it to at least the quarterfinals of the major tournaments, whereas Ms. Kournikova never won a tournament.

As a result, marketers have flocked to her like ballboys scurrying to chase down loose tennis balls. She has deals with Colgate-Palmolive, Nike, Prince, Microsoft, Honda, Pepsi, Motorola, Canon, NEC, Parlux Fragances and TAG Heuer, which adds up to almost $22 million a year in endorsements.

Those companies are some of the bluest of blue-chip marketers, and a lot of them, but Mr. Eisenbud continues to work patiently.

Hardly any of the tennis star's endorsements seem to overlap each other, so he hasn't run into a situation where images of Ms. Sharapova are saturating the market (except for the two-week U.S. Open in New York, of course).

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