Maria Sharapova The Next Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova, the tennis player turned sex symbol, may soon have some competition in the cut-throat game of marketing endorsement. Rising tennis star Maria Sharapova, a beautiful 17 year old from Siberia, is ranked well above Kournikova in actual tennis wins but far below her in awareness factor. In fact, only 23 percent of sports fans know who she is.
While Sharapova is concentrating on winning tennis and laying low on the marketing front with small deals with Nike, Prince and NEC, marketers are mulling her potential as spokesmodel. Celebrity and athlete management company The Marketing Arm's Managing Director Jeff Crown said, "She has great marketing potential. She has the looks of Kournikova, but the game will keep her in the public eye." But Sharapova is opting to keep her eye on the ball playing tennis for the time being rather than baring her body for marketers. In a refreshing turn away from easy money, she has turned down several offers according to her business team even though interest has been high.
For additional analysis on upcoming female tennis players who are in line to steal the spotlight from Kournikova, see Apechild's article, "The New Babes of Tennis."