By Barry Janoff
June 5, 2016: Already a celebrity in Spain and a rising star on the WTA circuit, Garbiñe Muguruza's Grand Slam victory over Serena Williams in the 2016 French Open should now propel her onto the international marketing landscape.
Though she still has a long way to go to reach Serena's 21 career singles Grand Slam wins, she certainly now has the potential to follow in the lucrative footsteps of Williams and, in particular, Maria Sharapova before she was hit with a drug-related suspension.
Muguruza, 22, and six-feet tall, this past weekend added her first career Grand Slam to an already impressive resume that includes reaching the finals of Wimbledon in 2015, where she lost to Serena Williams.
Now ranked No. 2 in the world in singles (behind Serena, up from No. 4) and in the Top 20 in doubles prior to Roland Garros, Muguruza has a small but impressive endorsement roster that brings in about $1 million.
She wears adidas shoes and adidas Barricade outfits by Stella McCartney and uses racquets from Babolat.
In 2014, she signed a multi-year deal with Mazda of Spain, her first non-endemic tennis deal. She followed that up by becoming a brand ambassador in Spain for financial firm BBVA.
Of equal importance, she has also made some waves on the pages of fashion magazines.
Her appearances include Elle (Spain) and, prior to playing in Roland Garros, in Vogue ("The French Open Star Has Tennis' Best Bombshell Hair: "Whether strolling the streets in her adopted hometown of Geneva or touring the Basque countryside, her hair falls into beachy waves — a far cry from the power ponytail that’s her on-court signature").
Muguruza's rise could fill both a short-term gap and a long-term need in tennis marketing as it comes at a time when Sharapova is under suspension after she tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January.
Should she continue to play well and/or win against top-ranked opponents such as Serena, especially at the upcoming Wimbledon and U.S. Open Grand Slams, the door would open for more endorsements in such categories as health & beauty, audio, music, electronics, food & beverage, watches and jewelry.
She also has indicated she wants to play in the Summer Olympics representing Spain as a mixed-doubles partner with top-ranked Rafael Nadal as well as other tennis events (with the roster still to be determined by Real Federación Española de Tenis).
She is represented by IMG Tennis, which also handles Sharapova.
"She has a bright future," Serena told the media following her loss to Muguruza at Roland Garros.
Muguruza's marketing partners wasted little time in congratulating her on her premiere Grand Slam victory.
Adidas Tennis posted a video of her highlights at Roland Garros and a shot of her holding the trophy, with the text, "Create Your Mark."
"Hell yeah! Congrats @GarbiMuguruza on winning Roland Garros! Go get some more polish for the trophy cupboard!" McCartney wrote on her Twitter account. "Wishing you loads of luck X Stella."
Babolat ran an ad with her image next to the text, "Bravo, Garbiñe."
"Congrats Garbiñe for your beautiful first victory at the 2016 French Open. So proud to have you in the Babolat team," wrote Babolat in the ad.
BBVA ran an ad with an image of Muguruza and text in Spanish: "Congratulations Champion, the Ambassador of BBVA . . . She becomes the second woman from her nation to win the French Grand Slam (following Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1998)."
On its Twitter page, BBVA wrote in Spanish next to an image of Muguruza, "Together we walk to the heights of our dreams. Go ahead!"
Sharapova earned more than $20 million from endorsements last year, ranking her No. 1 in the world among women athletes. Some partners have halted campaigns during her suspension, and she likely would not sign new deals at least for the duration
Serena ranked No. 2 among among women athletes, at $15 million in endorsements, according to industry analysts.
Both women also have investments in companies, Sharapova with her SugarPova candy line and Williams with Mission AthleteCare and her own clothing line.
Like Sharapova, Muguruza certainly has international connections to which marketing partners are attracted.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Muguruza moved to Spain at age three, when she began to play tennis. She currently calls Geneva home but plays for Spain.
Muguruza has played Serena head-to-head five times, winning twice — both in the French Open (2014, 2016) — and losing at the Australian Open twice (2013, 2015) in addition to Wimbledon last year.
In that category, that puts her far ahead of Sharapova, who is 2-19 head-to-head versus Serena, with Sharapova's last victory over Williams having come in 2004. To put that into perspective, Muguruza was 11 at the time.
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