Ana Ivanovic is certainly a very good tennis player and she's a gorgeous woman. Having risen to No. 1 at one point this year after winning the French Open, her first Grand Slam victory, Ivanovic's marketing power is on the rise.
So is the 20-year-old Serb the next big bet for the shoe and apparel brands to throw big money at?
Her deal with adidas runs out at the end of 2009, but sources tell CNBC that her management (DH Management's Dan Holzmann and Gavin Versi) are already hearing from companies who are interested in their client, who started out her career with Nike before switching to adidas.
The plan that has been pitched, according to those who have seen the proposals, is a lifetime deal.
Lifetime deals in the industry are typically deals that run to what is projected to be the end of the athlete's playing career. In this case, it's believed that what's being shopped around to Ivanovic's next shoe and apparel suitor is a 10-year guarantee with the potential for Ivanovic to earn additional money in her post-career life as a brand spokesperson.
The goal, insiders say, is for Ivanovic to have the ability to earn $10 million in some years from this brand if she plays in most tournaments, becomes No. 1 in the world and consistently wins. If that happens, the contract could be the most lucrative endorsement in the history of women's sports.
The challenge will be for her management team to get as much of that guaranteed as possible.
One source told CNBC that adidas is willing to play on the lifetime deal requirement at around $3.5 million a year for every year she satisfies the minimum playing requirements. Bonuses, it's said, could boost the deal to $5.5 million a year. That number could rise if Team Ivanovic agrees to renew well before the contract is up.
Sources said Nike has at least expressed initial interest. The company is committed to quite a stable of stars including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And any doubts that Maria Sharapova's recent injury would give her less status with the Swoosh were put out when Nike's Cole Haan announced this week that it would be using Sharapova to launch its Cole Haan Sporting line next year.
If there's a slot to fill, it could be the one that could come vacant if recent U.S. Open champ Serena Williams doesn't extend her contract with the brand. Williams' current contract could have been worth up to $56 million over five years, but fell way short due to Williams' inability to always stay at the top of her game. The fact that Nikehasn't used her in much of its advertising over the years could hint that they won't pony up much of a guarantee for a player who will turn 27 in a couple of weeks.
It's believed Ivanovic has a third suitor, which could be a Chinese company like Li-Ning, Peak and Anta.
More than two million Chinese play tennis at least twice a week, with the number expected to reach six million by 2010, according to figures released by the State General Administration of Sport in China. The administration also says that among people between the ages of 15 to 25, tennis is the second most played sport behind basketball.
Any brand that is willing to pay a big guarantee has to believe that Ivanovic can stay consistent. She lost to the No. 188th player in the world in the second round of the Open this year. It was the biggest upset to a women's No. 1 since 1975. They also have to believe that she has crossover appeal, which isn't that hard to research. She has 4.1 million Google hits and pictures of her, including one from a new shoot with FHM, are all over the Web.
The other value her management team can sell is her web site.There is no athlete in the entire sporting landscape who has a more updated site that that Ivanovic, who is giving her thoughts to her fans at least every couple of days. The site gets an impressive 900,000 unique users a month, which is extremely high for an individual athlete web site.
Update: One source told CNBC that adidas is willing to play on the lifetime deal requirement at around $3.5 million a year for every year she satisfies the minimum playing requirements. Bonuses, it's said, could boost the deal to $5.5 million a year. That number could rise if Team Ivanovic agrees to renew well before the contract is up. But, if those numbers are accurate, adidas might lose out in the battle for Ivanovic.
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