Eugenie Bouchard's victory in the Wimbledon semi-finals has sharply boosted her value to corporate sponsors, but that's nothing on what she'll be worth if she gets her hands on the silver salver that goes to the ladies' champion.
The 20-year-old Montreal-born tennis star beat Romania's Simona Halep on Thursday to earn her spot as the first Canadian in a Wimbledon singles championship final on Saturday.
Ms. Bouchard already has a number of corporate sponsors, thanks in part to her bubbly personality, good looks and the fact that she is fluently bilingual. But "without a doubt" her success at Wimbledon means she will now attract more, said Brian Cooper, president of Toronto-based S&E Sponsorship Group.
"To get into the final, especially Wimbledon – the storied event that it is – [means] she is breaking through in an area that has been dominated by the Williams sisters and [Maria] Sharapova and a few others for years," he said. "From a sponsorship perspective, this is a tremendous boost to her career and it will turn into significant dollars."
Among Ms. Bouchard's existing sponsors are sportswear maker Nike Inc., French tennis equipment maker Babolat, Rogers Communications Inc., and Ontario-based packaged chicken processor Pinty's Delicious Foods Inc. Just last month she signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola Canada.
As a winner, even more companies – selling packaged goods, cosmetics, consumer electronics, watches and cars – will want to be associated with Ms. Bouchard, Mr. Cooper said.
"She is reaching directly to the purchasing decision maker and the female of the house."
Still, he said, what she really needs to gain the interest of top global sponsors is a victory in the Wimbledon final. That's "the final stamp of approval that says she has the potential to be there for a long time."
He noted that Mike Weir, who won a number of PGA events, signed long-term contracts worth significant amounts of money only after he won the Masters championship in 2003.
But even a Wimbledon win may not be enough to vault Ms. Bouchard into the top ranks of sponsored athletes, said Keith McIntyre, chief executive officer of sports marketing consultant KMAC Group in Burlington, Ont.
Winning a major tennis tournament would generate new endorsements, Mr. McIntyre said, but "the real earnings potential truly [depends on] whether it is sustainable." She must win more big prizes, over a number of years, for sponsors to consider multi-year contracts over the $1-million mark, he said. In those cases, an athlete's image is often incorporated into a long-term plan for a company's brand.
He thinks that could happen with Ms. Bouchard. "What I'm starting to see is that this is not just a flash in the pan …. Each year she is going up the rankings."
At this point, however, the companies that sponsor Ms. Bouchard are just happy to be on board.
Tony Spiteri, senior vice-president of Pinty's, said his firm is thrilled at her success. "It's a coup for the the business," he said, "but if you talk to most of the folks in my company, they are just proud of [her] right now."
Mr. Spiteri met Ms. Bouchard at the U.S. Open last year, and was impressed by the fact that she was young, aggressive, at the top of the her game, and doing a good job representing Canada. But what really made him realize she would be a good spokesperson for the company's products, he said, was seeing her interact with children. "Watching her sign a tennis ball for a six-year old … that's what kind of sealed the deal for us."
Mr. Spiteri acknowledged that Ms. Bouchard's success might make her too expensive for Pinty's to continue sponsoring when its current multiyear deal expires. Still, he said, "I don't think that she'll forget who was there early on."
Nike Canada communications director Claire Rankine said her firm is "not at all surprised by [Ms. Bouchard's] success and her vast amount of talent." Sponsored athletes such as Ms. Bouchard help Nike "by providing insights to help advance the game," Ms. Rankine said. " She's a captivating athlete – it's amazing to see her passion and confidence when she plays, and it's great to have her as part of the brand."
Even if she has long-term success, Ms. Bouchard has a lot of catching up to do to reach the endorsement earnings of some of her predecessors. Top women's tennis earner Maria Sharapova of Russia brought in about $24-million (U.S.) in the past year, including about $22-million in sponsorships, according to Forbes magazine.
Ms. Bouchard will get a big payday Saturday, no matter what happens with her sponsorships. The runner-up in the Wimbledon final wins £880,000, about $1.6-million (Canadian). The champion gets £1.76-million. Either outcome would dramatically boost her career tennis earnings, which currently sit at about $1.7-million.