Serena Williams has won 21 Grand Slam Tournament Titles ranging from the 1999 US Open to the 2015 French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon. She’s also a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. Now, Williams is the highest-paid female athlete in the world.
Despite falling in the French Open final this past Saturday to Garbine Muguruza, Williams reportedly has made $28.9 million dollars over the last 12 months. As a result, Forbes says she passed Maria Sharapova to earn the title of “highest-paid female athlete in the world.” Sharapova had been the world’s highest-paid female athlete for the last 11 years.
According to Forbes, Sharapova is second with $21.9 million dollars made in the last 21 months. Williams and Sharapova are followed in order by Ronda Rousey ($14 million), Danica Patrick ($13.9 million), and Agnieszka Radwanska ($10.2 million) in the top five.
The 34-year-old has a career prize money total of $77.6 million dollars, more than twice as much as any other athlete. So how did Sharapova stay ahead of her for so long in yearly totals? Advertisements and sponsorships.
Williams has recently taken on more and more marketing opportunities. According to Repucom’s CelebrityDBI, Williams is the second most marketable athlete behind LeBron James.
“(It) tracks consumer perceptions of celebrities based on awareness, as well as seven attributes. Her 89% awareness level ranks in the top 3% of the nearly 4,000 celebrities Repucom follows, and she scores highly on the aspiration and influence attributes in particular.”
“There are a number of factors we take into consideration as we’re evaluating potential partnerships. Serena’s excellence on court, her work in the community and her following in pop culture are a few things that set her apart and are complementary to our brand,” Frank Nakano, head of Sports and Entertainment for JPMorgan Chase, said.
After winning three Grand Slam titles in 2015 and finishing with a record that year of 53-3, Williams began to rake in a lot more money from sponsors and advertisements.
According to Forbes, after her 2015 season resulted in her being named the No. 1 player in the world, lucrative bonuses from sponsors began to pay off. It also led to Williams making appearances at different events across the world that also paid well.
Williams is currently a sponsor for some of the world’s biggest brands including Gatorade, Nike, Pepsi, Audemars Piguet, Beats Electronics, Burlei, Delta, and IBM. Forbes estimates her off-court income is around $20 million, and that includes bonuses and appearance fees.
The last time Serena was the highest-paid female athlete was back in 2004 before Sharapova won the 2004 Wimbledon and took over the lead.