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Friday, March 15
Updated: March 18, 2:32 PM ET
 
Kournikova serves up only aces

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

When Anna Kournikova lost in the first round of the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells recently, it marked her 100th consecutive singles appearance without a tournament victory.

Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova is known more for her sex appeal than tennis game.
Although the 20-year-old Russian has yet to receive a winner's check and is now ranked 67th in the world, tournament officials still go out of their way to reserve a spot for her, swarms of fans still come out to see her and companies still beg her to pitch their products.

"The interest in her continues to be unparalleled," said her agent, Phil de Picciotto, who noted the Anna Kournikova Fan Club now has 65,000 members. "She's a real personality."

Kournikova reportedly makes $10 million to $15 million a year in endorsement and licensing income, and companies aren't shying away from her just because she hasn't won a singles title. Kournikova recently filmed two television commercials -- one for Pegaso, the cell phone company she endorses, and the other for adidas. The shoe maker is now using Kournikova to help sell its new ClimaCool shoes, meant to reduce foot moisture.

Tournament directors also covet a Kournikova appearance. "Giving her the wild card was pretty automatic," said Cliff Buchholz, tournament director for the upcoming NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami. "She's a celebrity; she's very attractive, has great charisma, and despite what some people might think, she's a very good tennis player."

Kournikova likely will play most of her matches -- assuming there's more than one -- on the Stadium Court in order to accomodate the expected crowd, Buchholz said.

Brian Brown
March Madness has become must-see TV every year, which is why CBS pays so much for its college basketball rights.
And college players are amateurs?
How valuable is men's college basketball? CBS paid about $14,000 more per minute for its men's college basketball coverage last year than NBC paid per minute for its NBA rights, according to Hadrian Shaw, a sports analyst for Kagan World Media. Shaw calculated that CBS paid $75,600 per minute for the rights to broadcast men's college basketball in 2000-01, while NBC paid $61,523 per minute in rights fees during the 2000-2001 NBA season.

Bracket madness
Despite the proliferation of free online bracket prediction games, some bracket software companies are still seeing good growth. Doug Kolpek began selling his bracket software in 1994 as a hobby, but it has become a true business now. To satiate picky college basketball fans, Kolpek's bracket software allows users to customize their options and dictate variables such as points per round. This year, Kolpek said he sold more than 1,000 copies of his Turbo Tourney software, at $29.99 apiece. Nine years ago, he sold only two copies. "I see 100 percent growth a year," Kolpek said.

As if the game weren't hard enough ...
In an effort to lower the average age of its consumer, scotch maker Drambuie created an event four years ago that was sure to skew lower on the demographic scale.

The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships, which takes place March 17-22 in Uummannaq, Greenland, has proven to be a marketing success. Even in tough economic times, the company has no problem justifying its sponsorship. Thanks to the event's borderline absurdity, Drambuie gets plenty of publicity, which in turn means greater brand awareness.

This year, 25 golfers -- only 10 are chosen based on their golf abilities -- will face off in the all-expense paid championship. With temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero, the golfers will play full-length holes, lifting their balls off sheets of ice and hopefully steering clear of icebergs. Chip Thomson, a golf instructor from Austin, Texas, who works with a handfull of pros on the PGA Tour, said he had a more flexible driver and three-wood custom made for this event.

Mark McGwire
McGwire
Big Mac is back ... in a pack
Upper Deck signed Mark McGwire to an exclusive one-year memorabilia card deal recently. The card-maker will manufacturer McGwire game jerseys and autographed cards. The first card set since his retirement will be inserted into Upper Deck's Series Two Baseball and will debut in June.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn.com








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