September 8, 2009: At the U.S. Open, Melanie Oudin's modus operandi has been to take down top-ranked players. Next, her marketing operandi will be to sign top endorsement deals.
She came into the U.S. Open off a strong showing at Wimbledon, but still with less than $1 million in endorsements via adidas and Wilson. Now, the young woman who turns 18 on Sept. 23 has been turning the tennis world on its side. She came in ranked No. 70 in the world, but will move up in the rankings and marketing deals - into the $5 million-plus range - after wins against No. 4 Elena Dementieva, who won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; No. 29 Maria Sharapova, who won the Open in 2006; and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals. This past June, she defeated former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon (where she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the 11th seed).
Both of her current deals are up for renewal, and Nike has to be waving mucho dinero at her and her agent, Sam Duvall from marketing agency Blue Entertainment Sports Television, Washington, D.C. Not that adidas will give up without a financial fight to make her their hot U.S. female tennis star to take on Serena Williams (and Sharapova) at Nike; Fila, which outfits Kim Clijsters, might also make a play. At the Open, Oudin's been wearing adidas Barricade V's, which she customized herself in pink and yellow, complete with the word "Believe" on them.
Oudin will have the opportunity to expand her marketing deals into such high-profile areas as beauty, fashion, telecom, electronic equipment, sports drinks (Gatorade versus Vitaminwater?) and healthy oriented foods. Oudin already opts to wear a pink Timex Ironman Sleek 50-Lap watch during her matches but does not have a deal with the company. She won't quite be in the $10-million plus range of Venus and Serena Williams and Sharapova, but certainly her age and proven abilities at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open will put her on the cusp of those peers.
"I think Melanie will have no problem endorsing a lot of different products," Duvall told the press. " She's like the girl next door." He said he's been getting a lot of calls, being only mildly specific. “All the apparel manufacturers and racket manufacturers want the next best American.”
Up next, No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki on Sept. 9, who, like Oudin, wears adidas and is represented by BEST.