Maria Sharapova Tops Forbes 2015 Highest Paid Female Athletes; Tennis Players Dominate With 7 Of The Top 10

Maria Sharapova

For the 11th straight year Maria Sharapova tops the Forbes list of highest paid female athletes. The career Grand Slam winner from Russia benefited from her contracts with Nike, Avon, Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian among others. Her personal candy line, Sugarpova, doubled in sales over the past 12 months. All of this added up to 29.2 million dollars. A lot has been made recently about Maria Sharapova leading Serena Williams in earnings despite Serena having a far better career. Many have pointed to Serena being body shamed and the racial aspect of the tall blonde Sharapova being a more stereotypical media darling. While some of this is certainly true, I think it needs to be fairly pointed out that many of Sharapova’s sponsors reap the benefits of having her back their products over the years. It isn’t simply because they like her that she gets the big dollars. For example, a few years ago she had the number one selling ballet flat from Cole Haan. People tend not to bring things like that up. Also, Masha, wherever she goes, will set up boutique stores and do extensive promotion for her sponsors in a way that I don’t see any other tennis player do. Sometimes I think Masha does too much for her sponsors to the detriment of putting in time on the court. Sure, other players show up at events for their sponsors but none to the degree that I see Sharapova doing it. And while many speak of Serena’s great popularity here and around the world, it must be also noted how popular Maria Sharapova is around the world. This is a fact that is evident in her having by far the most Facebook followers among female tennis players and being a social media darling, releasing her own very popular, among her fans anyway, Maria Sharapova social media app. Sponsorship is not always a meritocracy and never has been. The fact of the matter is that Maria Sharapova doesn’t only get sponsorship deals surpassing other players simply because she’s tall and blonde. She also is great at pushing product. In fact, I’ve spoken to some people who lament that Serena is number 2 currently in earnings and I ask them if they’ve ever bought a product directly linked to Serena Williams. None of them have. I can tell you that I have bought products promoted directly by Maria Sharapova. And to be clear, I don’t simply mean going out and buying a pair of Nike shoes that are not part of either of their lines. Just recently I bought a few bags of Sugarpova. I bought the sporty and the cheeky varieties. One was a gummy bear candy and the other was miniature tennis ball gumballs. Even when Sharapova was busy being an ambassador for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia she still had the time to promote a Samsung boutique store at the Olympics. In fact, I think that her being tall and blonde makes her an easy target. Don’t forget that a few years ago before Li Na retired the Chinese superstar tennis player, who has fewer major victories than Sharapova, was number two on the list also ahead of Serena. And there are marketing reasons for that with sponsors seeing China as a gold mine of opportunity. The point is people weren’t really coming and complaining about Li Na besting Serena in the same way as they complain about Maria Sharapova. I think that is because when you compare Serena and Maria it becomes too easy and too simple to make it all about race and body type and ignore what Maria has given back to her sponsors in profit. With that being said, Serena isn’t missing any meals at 24.6 million in earnings herself. So let’s not cry any tears for Serena. In fact the top 10 is full of tennis players. 7 in total. I also blog about the LPGA, so it’s good to see Stacy Lewis in the top 10. Additionally, I also blog about Ronda Rousey so it’s nice to see the armbar assassin in the top 10 as well.

1. Maria Sharapova, tennis ($29.2M)
2. Serena Williams, tennis ($24.6M)
3. Caroline Wozniacki, tennis ($14.6M)
4. Danica Patrick, auto racing ($13.9M)
5. Ana Ivanovic, tennis ($8.3M)
Petra Kvitova, tennis ($7.7M)
Simona Halep, tennis ($6.8M)
8. Ronda Rousey, mixed martial arts ($6.5M)
9. Stacy Lewis, golf ($6.4M)
10. Agnieszka Radwanska, tennis ($6.0M)

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