Sources: Deal to be announced next week

Originally Published: August 11, 2004
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Maria Sharapova's failed attempt to make a cell phone call to her mother after winning Wimbledon last month might have been the impetus for her first post-title endorsement deal.

Telecommunications company Motorola will announce a deal with the 17-year-old Russian beauty next week, multiple sources told ESPN.com.

Maria Sharapova
While endorsers want Sharapova for her game and her good looks, she's firmly focused on her game.

Financial terms of the deal are not known. Linda Dozoretz, a spokesperson with IMG, which represents Sharapova, said the firm would have no comment. Stuart Redsun, Motorola's worldwide general manager of brand marketing, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Sharapova borrowed her father's cell phone to make the call from Centre Court, but the cell phone kept shutting off. She said after the match that her father's cell phone was a Chinese phone and that she owned a Nokia.

Following her victory, sports marketing pundits painted a healthy off-the-court picture for Sharapova, who some dubbed as the Anna Kournikova who could win. Despite not winning any WTA singles titles, Kournikova earned more than $12 million a year in endorsement income.

Kournikova's ranking was as high as No. 8 in the world, which is the spot that Sharapova now holds (a career high for her, as well). Since turning pro on her 14th birthday in April 2001, Sharapova has won $1.46 million.

Sharapova currently has endorsement deals with Prince, Nike and Speedminton, a product that combines tennis, badminton and racquetball.

Nike has no plans to roll out any Sharapova-branded items at the U.S. Open, according to spokesperson Nate Tobecksen. The final grand slam tournament held in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., begins on Aug. 30.

After winning Wimbledon, Sharapova appeared on non-traditional outlets for athletes including NBC's "Today" show, "Entertainment Tonight" and "Inside Edition."

Sharapova, who also has a modeling contract with IMG, has played better and better in this year's Grand Slam events. She made it to the third round of the Australian Open and the quarterfinals of the French Open before her victory over Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final.

Motorola is heavily involved in sports-related marketing. The company is the wireless telecommunications sponsor of the National Football League; the deal includes the rights to produce and display its logo on coaches' headsets through the 2005 season.

Motorola is also providing the two-way radio communications system that will be used by public safety officials during the Olympics in Athens.

Although Nextel has reportedly committed more than $700 million over the next 10 years for its sponsorship of NASCAR's premiere racing series, Motorola is actually making the driver-branded Nextel cellular phones, which were unveiled in February.

Before Sharapova, the biggest splash a cell phone had ever made in a sporting event was when New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn had a teammate remove a cell phone from a goalpost pad and simulated a call after scoring a touchdown in a game against the New York Giants last December.

Unlike Sharapova, Horn never consummated a deal.

"I had two or three [endorsement] offers, but I turned them down because I didn't do it for a cell phone deal," Horn told "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" earlier this week. "I did it because I told my kids when I left home I was going to call them."

It was the most expensive call in cell phone history. Horn was fined $15,000 by the league for the stunt and later agreed to pay the $5,000 the league fined teammate Michael Lewis for retrieving the phone.

Horn's celebration came after the Monday Night Football celebration of then-San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens, who took a permanent marker out of his sock and signed a ball after scoring a touchdown in a game against the Seattle Seahawks in October 2002. Owens signed a non-traditional endorsement deal with Sharpie, which donated $25,000 to the Alzheimer's Association. The permanent marker company pledged $4,500 to the organization last year -- $500 for every Owens touchdown.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com. Willie Weinbaum, a producer for ESPN, contributed to this story.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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