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Why Does Maria Sharapova Make More in Endorsements Than Serena Williams?

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

In case you missed it, Serena Williams won her 20th singles Grand Slam title over the weekend at the French Open, a feat that adds to her legacy as the most dominant athlete on the planet. No one—male or female, team sport or individual sport—can claim the sustained success she has over her remarkable career.

In a world where athletic accomplishment is layered with corporate piggy-backing, it is a little more than curious that Williams is not the reigning women’s tennis endorsement darling.

That title goes to none other than Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star who has not had nearly the amount of success as Serena, and yet last year made twice as much money in endorsements.

Let’s break it down to try to figure this out: Serena is beautiful, with a glowing dark brown complexion and a beautiful smile. She’s physically fit. She’s smart and engaging and, some diva moments notwithstanding, is as likable as you can get. And she has 33 major titles, including the 13 doubles Grand Slam championships she earned with big sister Venus.

Serena would seem a corporation’s ideal representative.

Meanwhile, Sharapova is attractive in her own right—tall, thin and blonde. She’s had her diva moments, too, but comes across as a pleasant person overall. She has five Grand Slam titles, which is four times less than Serena Williams.

Williams’ career WTA earnings: $69,528,369—almost double that of No. 2 Sharapova at $35,059,407.

But, according to Forbes, Sharapova made $22 million off the court last year compared to Williams’ $11 million.

Surely, Serena Williams is not complaining— $11 million is quite a purse. But the disparity points to racial profiling and the warped definition of beauty that pushes companies to their decisions on representatives.

When comparing the two players, it’s hard to fathom that a bias based on race has not come into play. When Magic Johnson was the best player in the NBA, Larry Bird did not lead the league in endorsements.

When Sugar Ray Leonard was boxing’s best, Gerry Cooney did not get the biggest endorsements. When Tiger Woods, pre-divorce, was dominating golf, Phil Mickelson did not top the endorsements leaderboard.

So why is Serena Williams trailing in this area when she’s not only the best woman’s tennis player, but the most dominant athlete, regardless of sport?

Head-to-head, Serena Williams, 33, has beaten Sharapova 17 of 19 times. Her sister, Venus, has more Grand Slam titles than Sharapova with seven.

Further, Williams’ story of growing up in troubled Compton, Calif. learning the game from her father on tattered tennis courts, coming behind her sister who had dominated the game before her, losing an older sister to murder, battling racists who booed her during a match in California, is the kind of redemption and overcoming-the-odds logline that could be considered fairy tale if it were not really her life.

Jun 8, 2013; Paris, France; Serena Williams (USA), right, and Maria Sharapova (RUS) pose with their trophies after their match on day 14 of the 2013 French Open at Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by USA Today Sports

In the end, though, it comes down to the perception of race and beauty. Around the world, the negative propaganda machines about who Black people are still resonates with many, even in this advanced time of other-worldly technology.

It is that technology also that streams worldwide via social media many of the ridiculous behaviors and acts that taint the African-American community. Sadly, to many, those images are more believable and influential than the goodwill and humanity that overwhelmingly represents who Black people are.

So, the corporate bias takes into account what their customers consider safe and beautiful and make their calls with that in mind.

On beauty, the perception that Black is beautiful is stronger than ever among Blacks. The horrid killings of Black males at the hands of law officers have, to some extent, forced the community to look at itself and recognize the value of Black life. In doing so, the recognition that Black is beautiful has come with it.

But not everywhere, apparently. Black women have adorned mainstream magazine covers and non-Black women have turned to making cosmetic changes to their lips and hips to resemble African-American beauty.

Still, when it comes to Serena Williams—a strong-bodied, dark-skinned woman who has taken stances on racial issues—against the ubiquitous global perception of beauty—thin, blonde hair, blue eyes—Sharapova wins.

No one is feeling sorry that Serena Williams earned half of what Sharapova made in endorsements last year. But it speaks to a sorry state of perception on beauty and likability.

What people are saying

60 thoughts on “Why Does Maria Sharapova Make More in Endorsements Than Serena Williams?

  1. "Surely, Serena Williams is not complaining— $11 million is quite a purse. But the disparity points to racial profiling and the warped definition of beauty that pushes companies to their decisions on representatives."

    This is B.S.. What happens when you compare both of them to Tiger Woods? He made tripple their combined endorsements throughout his reign. He is still making almost double, and he has been socially disgraced and is off his game. It has to do with personality, competitiveness, looks, and likability.

    Business savvy and creativity has a role to play too. Sharapova designs her own outfits for Nike, and they are popular. Some of the Williams Sister's designs have be embarrassing. You don't get endorsements from companies that you are competing against.

  2. 'It is that technology also that streams worldwide via social media many of the ridiculous behaviors and acts that taint the African-American community'. As if this same technology doesn't show white people acting the ass. White privilege is the reason and female white privilege more so, Serena doesn't fit the mold of the prevalent European standard of beauty. When Black people stop begging and start creating our own maybe we will stop whinging about not be allowed to sit at the table.

  3. Sad! Just Plan Sad.. Go Figure Only In America Or This Sick A** Twisted World We Live In…

  4. Maria is class act 100% professional!!! Serena has no class as shown again dropping f bombs french finals

  5. Its racism as people have a problem with a woman so strong and assertive as Serena. Serena will battle you and fight you to the end as she has so much heart, and guess what? There is still a lot of people who just don't know how to view Serena because there really is no other Woman in charge of there world like Serena is of hers. I am a white male and I cant begin to tell you how much I love and adore Serena Williams. I don't want to see her get older because I know that day will come when she will no longer be on the court and what a true once in a lifetime player she is. That Indian Wells incident is what solidified and pushed her over the edge in being the strong assertive person she has become. A true blessing in disguise. God bless you Serena, you are the best!

  6. Nothing racism here. Maria has more fans than Serena. Serena attitude on court is terrible while Maria showing trtrtrue class act. Doesn't matter how many GS Serena won but if keeps acting like uneducated trash bag she will get no respects no matter what.

  7. I was thinking about this the other day after she won the French Open. Shocking but not surprising really. It's a lily white world after all, right.

  8. Lou Bautista says:

    attitude and character..

  9. It's racial prejudice not racism which is a group power activity. Sharapova is a member of an ethnic group which controls most of the world's wealth. Also as someone said she probably has more fans. Just the same Serena has the medals. When blacks worldwide began to see their friends, other than themselves, are few and far between such matters will cease to have any bearing on their everyday lives.

  10. Don Smith says:

    Sharapova is pretty in her own way c'mon.its beauty and the beast

  11. Dawn Cooper says:

    Sharapova does not have more fans than Serena. Maybe all of Russia are fans and many in the white world. Whereas Serena is loved and admired by all of the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil and countries where the population is primarily black. These people do not care about Sharapova. Additionally Serena is loved by many white American and Europeans. Many of Serena fans are not on twitter etc. This is how white supremacy continues to be a factor by quoting erroneous figures. There are over 72 million google searches for Serena and a mere 17+million for Sharapova. Also in terms of beauty, when both players are without makeup on the court Sharapova is not better looking than Serena. (Anna Ivanovic's the white girl with the pretty face; but the body of a young boy) Maria & Serena both look equally beautiful in their beauty photos. But long legs, skinniness and being blond will get many an ordinary white woman many places.

  12. Maria will trade the cash for the Grand Slams in a heartbeat!

  13. April Lynn says:

    The article is discussing beauty and black women. The whole point is that black women deal with these issues in our society.

  14. Ben Lesui says:

    I agree with a previous comment. Sharapova's looks land her in a group that represents most of the world's wealth, not just sport. Blond, white, tall and skinny is the ideal beauty perception among white society. I don't fully believe that Serena doesn't receive as much endorsement deals due to the fact people are racist, it's more unintentional prejudice (best way I could put it) where the billions of dollars pumped into tennis are done so by white people/companies and tennis is a sport played mostly by white people so it only makes sense that Sharapova is the face of female tennis advertising wise because she appeals to the majority of the tennis market.

    WTA depend on funds and tennis events, and if that means Sharapova being the face to bring it all in, then she will be. They tried to advertise Eugenie Bouchard as Sharapova's successor, however, she's fallen flat on her face this year and so I believe Sharapova will remain the highest paid female athlete in the world unless another white blonde female or Asian female (especially Chinese) comes along because that again represents where the money for tennis comes from.

  15. April Lynn Have you ever heard of a black woman named Ophra?

  16. Really? Sharapova without make-up is still way better looking that Serena. And that argument about there being more Serena Fans is not necessarily true either. I am from Venezuela and most people there support Sharapova instead of Serena. Serena is probably not endorsed as much due to her attitude on and off the court. She's had many unsportsmanship behavior acts throughout her career, especially recently against Timea. I understand she was sick, but when any other player is sick and on court they tried to hide it as much as they can as to not affect your opponent's game.

  17. Moore Romaro says:

    I'm on vacation gotta chance to see the tv program Mad Men it's sickening but accurate as it relates to the 50's and 60's womanizing, racial bigots it's just hid today in a new racist European culture called passive aggressive.

  18. William Smeltzer Read comment before posting.

  19. Dawn Cooper says:

    Carlos, in your world maybe she is this exceptional beauty but for many people of color she is not.. I am not governed by a Eurocentric view of beauty where so many" ordinary looking " white women are lauded as beautiful. (Julia Roberts etc.) I saw Maria playing Sloane a couple years ago and while Sloane was winning , Maria looked like a 50+ old woman. This is not a biased observation…I was not the only one who commented on this. As I mentioned before Ana's the naturally good looking girl. The media is always on the look out for a Serena faux pas. I viewed countless videos of Serena's earlier matches and interviews ;what is evident is that she a fierce fighter on the court and a fun loving individual. Both Venus and Serena always congratulated their opponents after matches..the criticism of them being classless is baseless and serves a racist propaganda. Serena does have some Diva attitude at times I admit, but as she confesses, that is just part of who she is.. She's also a very sweet and loving individual who will outgrow her teenage kinks like many of us do. I believe that she'll be a most admirable adult..She admits that she has shortcomings…..she's human. Do you know the true Maria? Maria's unknowns maybe the more scary. I hope your read Mr. Lesui's analysis.. it is more valid that yours.

  20. April Lynn says:

    And your point? Naming one black women (or
    What is your point? Naming one black woman who has achieve success doesn't negate the point of the article. Actually, Oprah would 100% agree with it also, considering she has also spoken out about black women and beauty in the country.

  21. Wow,when are we over this crap

  22. Ranjit Singh says:

    It a shame! If we dont change our attitudes, its will still be a divided world! Shame on the big sporting companies!

  23. This is a really awesome and thought provoking commentary… "Curtis Bunn " The new York time's also commented on this subject matter. "VOX" Sports as well Jenée Desmond-Harris "Every Serena Williams win comes with a side of disgusting racism and sexism " This is 2015 I think?

  24. Sarah Drey says:

    Serena has attitude issues and bad manners – on and off the court. This makes her unattractive no matter what she looks like. On top of that, Serena looks manly! Those bulky arms and shoulders? the heavily muscled legs? not feminine. I understand that she needs them for her tennis career, but still it is not attractive and we are talking about visual exposure here. Maria Sharapova has an athletic body with a fine bone structure. Sharapova is lovely, graceful and looks very much like a woman. There is really no comparison. To boot, she is charming, open, natural and her attitude is positive and pleasant. So winning tennis matches is not everything, especially in marketing and promotional work. Really, it is not the color of hair or eyes or skin. It is the whole package that the person presents. People would rather know and look at Maria than Serena.

  25. You Sarah would rather know and look at Maria. Serena is going to be forever remembered in history. Once Maria's crows feet and sagging skin become ever more visible she will be an afterthought in tennis history,

  26. Yes, there's a difference, but I don't think it has to do with race. Its all about personality, approachability by fans, etc. Sharapova is no angel, but Serena is always too serious and her attitude with fans in slams is not the best either. Also, her tennis apparel is almost always horrible, so I don't think her fashion sense will attract sponsors. By the way, I play tennis as a hobby, so I'm one of those customers that pay attention to such details.

  27. Serena lets her tennis do the talking.

  28. I am from Philippines…I guess we are just making it a big issue..My mom is a die hard fan of Maria Sharapova but she's not a racist.Looks and colors has nothing to do with this issue.Maria and Serena are both blessed athlete and they're both beautiful in their own right.Instead of using nasty words why can't we just support our favorite athlete without saying bad words to others.

  29. Gab Ifaks O says:

    Who cares about the world outside God. Is all fucked up with loads of Pig heads.

  30. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Plus Maria doesn't shout the F bomb like Serena did at Roland Garros in her title match, nor has Maria ever lost her cool during a match and threatened a line judge. That little Crip dance Serena did at the Olympics didn't go over well either.

  31. Eric Lowe says:

    On the real, a lot of MS's endorsements are with EUROPEAN companies – Tag Hauer, Porsche, Canon, etc. Maria, who's pretty much an American, also speaks fluent Russian, which helps her marketability!

  32. Eric Lowe says:

    Martina Navritolova dominated Chris Evert in the 70s, yet Chrissie made so much more in endorsement! No one ever made that an issue then? Same with Anna Kournikova, who played in the era of Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graph. AK made more than all of them! This is BS and a distraction! #serenaiscomingformargaretsmithcourt

  33. To ME, and I am a while male, Serena Williams is not ONLY incredibly beautiful but, most importantly of all here, she is an absolute and complete success story altogether. It's not to me about much more or less she makes in endorsements than Sharapova it's about watching her play Tennis; besides, she can do whatever ELSE she pleases whenever and WHEREVER. I admire her for being able to market fashion, etc. for her future. She's extremely bright as well as very gifted. I admire her for that.

  34. Ms Williams value dose not come from the money she makes or dose not make it comes from what speaks or dose not speak.

  35. Iain Davies says:

    I read an article which said the appeal to Corporations is how she invests in the products she is an ambassador for. Turns up early, stays late and works hard. The other players tend to take the money, and spare the least time and invest no interest. Therefore the reason is to do with attitude and professionalism not race.

  36. On top of that, Maria Sharapova is native Russian, however, she gets more endorsements from U.S. companies than Serena despite the fact she's the most dominant athlete in the U.S. men or women. ESPN shows like Pardon The Interruption, First Take and Around The Horn didn't even mention her 20th Grand Slam win in France. This is flat out white supremacy, PERIOD.

  37. "Those bulky arms and shoulders? the heavily muscled legs? not feminine. I understand that she needs them for her tennis career, but still it is not attractive and we are talking about visual exposure here".

    I often find that the people who are most critical of the female form tend to be other women. This post is no exception. And pretty much confirms what the article mentions as far as the perception of what the standard of beauty is.

  38. Sarah, darker skin makes you look more toned and muscular. Salone Stevens looks more defined than most of the other women on tour. That's why bodybuilders tan, it gives off the appearance of being bigger. I feel sorry for you as a person. You as a woman know they come in all different shapes and sizes, you can't say one woman looks more like a woman over another based on looks. Venus and Serena are night and day when it comes to body types, and they are related. Everyone is different. A more comparable argument would be Venus and Sharapova, since Venus too is very classy and slim, but she's black so…. And won more than Maria.

  39. Oh and you are the person with a flower for a profile picture by the way. You shouldn't be talking at all.

  40. Pretty much an American but represents Russia at the Olympics and Fed Cup.

  41. Maria Sharapova gets more endorsement deals than SERENA WILLIAMS is so obvious it's not funny. Anyone who makes excuses that it is other than the obvious is lying to themselves.

  42. No. Who's Ophra?

  43. Sarah Drey says:

    Nicole Greenidge It is probably true. But I was not discussing 'tennis history' or comparing them on court. Serena is an amazing athlete and has great winning history – no discussion there. The topic was specifically endorsements and why Maria outdoes Serena in that area. So I am not being mean or talking 'who's pretty' – it's that advertisement, marketing and perception are a different ballgame altogether. I also talked about character traits that would vastly influence whether people are willing to deal with that person. Class and a positive gracious attitude go a long way. Impulsiveness and aggression help in some situations but diminish in others. They are both amazing women in their own right. Both have achieved so much and I hope they continue to do so.

  44. Bill Maisch says:

    Why is Tiger Woods ranked 220 in the world, yet leads all PGA pros in endorsements?

  45. We live in a system of global Whiteskin Supremacy and the White skinned Caucasian (not ethnic Albinos) has force fed the world his Europeon beauty standard which is genetic recessive traits, partial albinism and mutations.

    Its disgusting, the Bible refered to white skin as leprosy but the world has been whitewashed into believing that albinism and yellow hair are somehow beautiful when in fact the opposite is true.

    Serena and Venus are beautiful, next to Sloan Stephens they are the most beautiful women in the WTA, that beautiful brown skin looks so healthy and human compared to the pale and sickly looking albino skinned women

  46. William, Serena is spondered by NIKE and wears all their clothes. You are comparing women to men and that is an added disparity because women NEVER earn as much money as men, even if they are better. The US soccer team is the perfect example of that. Oh. And her name is Oprah.

  47. Because he's a man and his name is Tiger. It really doesn't matter what his rank is now. He was once the top golfer in the world. His endorsements will always be high.

  48. Marcus Ford says:

    This is exactly what the author is talking about. You judge women's actions based on what they look like. You will remember a single f-bomb that Williams dropped at one time but none of the many f-bombs and middle fingers to the crowd from Sharapova. You exaggerate everything Williams does while outright ignoring anything Sharapova does. You explain the disparity, it comes from racist hypocrites like you.

  49. Marcus Ford says:

    And why does your mom like Sharapova more than she likes Serena?

  50. Khalid Namar says:

    Does this writer and most others know that before Venus and Serena won amything they were making more money in endorsements than most players in the top 50. They were black them. Also they still have earned more than 99% of all players. Endorsements have NOTHING to do with who is the best necessarily. Agassi earned more than Sampras in spite of not winning nearly as manyy majors. And Sharapova is now anaerocan, speaks flawless english and can be marketed in far more places(US, Russia and Eastern Europe) please find aomethibg else to be more upset about than 2 millionaires.

  51. Maria is beautiful while serena is ugly like shit. that's why

  52. Marie Thomas says:

    Many would disagree and think Sharapova, with her flat square body (looks like the queen of hearts in a stack of cards) and pale, saggy and aged proned face is far less attractive.

  53. OMG ! This is called white lie.
    Serena is full of MELANIN and MAGIC.
    Serena is African Queen and Maria is Russian Queen.
    But let us talk about Tennis compare Serena with Maria !
    Serena beats Maria 17 out of 19 . In tennis language Serena is not only she brought her beauty she also brought her talent, strength etc… She is the best player all time in the world… She is called "The Queen of Tennis. " Her beauty start from in side out.

  54. Larry Rivetz says:

    This author is clearly prejudiced. He says Serena is beautiful, but Maria is only attractive, a view not shared by the majority of people. He describes Serena as physically fit, an opinion not shared by many, but Maria as thin, clearly not a complimentary description. Serena has a glowing brown complexion and a beautiful smile. Maria's smile and complexion? I guess we'll never know. The author is castigating racism in others while exhibiting his own, detracting from the legitimacy of his complaint.

  55. Larry Rivetz says:

    You are right. Let' s not forget Michael Jordon.

  56. Larry Rivetz says:

    Marie Thomas while beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, very few people of any race share your opinion.

  57. Marie Thomas Endorsements proves my opinion. Ugly players endorse less than nice

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