Data visualization: Why you don’t need to feel bad about Serena Williams’2015 US Open exit

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

Yes; it’s true. The dream is over. Evergreen female tennis sensation, Serena Williams, has been bundled out of the 2015 US Open at the semi-final stage by unseeded (and unheralded) Italian Roberta Vinci.

Williams was chasing her first calendar year Grand Slam – winning Wimbledon, the Australian, French and US Opens in a single year – when she was undone by the little-known Vinci, ranked just 43rd in the world, who was contesting her first grand slam semi-final. Had Williams overcome Vinci, she would have extended her 33-match grand slam winning streak, and looked all-but-certain to claim a record-equalling 22nd career slam. Indeed, had she gone onto win the US Open 2015, she would have been the first singles player (male or female) to secure all four majors in one season since Steffi Graf in 1988. But, it wasn’t to be.

However, if we use Business Intelligence software and data visualization technology to assess Serena’s on and off-court exploits, it’s pretty clear that the only thing Serena really lost was a little pride.

Serena Williams career earnings (2007 – 2015)


Where’s the data at: www.therichlist.com >
Note: Data unavailable for Serena Williams’ earnings through endorsements for years 2010 and 2012.

Insights

  • Serena has claimed over one million dollars in tournament prize money every year since 2007
  • Serena has earned over eight million dollars in endorsements every year since 2007
  • 2014 is the only year in which Serena Williams’ total tournament winnings outweighed total earnings from endorsements ($12,385,570 vs $11,000,000)

Serena more than matches on-court success with off-court business nous

When you think of Serena Williams, you probably think about her tennis prowess. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that Williams’ mammoth earnings are directly linked to her almost-peerless on-court performances. After all, 21 Grand Slam titles is a towering record in any era. But, what’s interesting is that Serena has used the power of her personal brand – which yes; was developed and has grown through her sporting achievements – to secure business endorsements that comfortably shade her tournament winnings.

For example, according to her financial profile on therichlist.com, Serena has claimed over one million dollars in tournament prize money each year since 2007. However, Serena has earned over eight million dollars in endorsements every year since 2007 (no data available for 2010 and 2012). According to this data set, 2014 is the only year in which Serena Williams’ total tournament winnings outweighed total earnings from endorsements ($12,385,570 vs $11,000,000). To place this in perspective, for the years analysed (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015), Serena has earned a total of $133,881,290. Of that, only $44,697,300 has come from tournament prize money. The rest – $89,183,990 – has come from endorsements.

So no matter which way you slice it, Serena is the highest earning female tennis player in history – on, or off, the court. Actually, she’s the highest earning female athlete, ever. And, while she has accumulated $72 million in tournament winnings over the entire breadth of her professional tennis career, the seven most recent years (that we know of) have generated even more through sponsorship and brand ambassador fees ($89 million). And this isn’t just a recent phenomenon in Williams’ professional tennis career. For example, Serena signed a five-year, $40 million dollar, endorsement contract with Nike back in 2004.

This off-court economic earning potential is something of which Serena seems acutely aware. And, it also seems apparent that she plans to capitalize.

Highest earning celebrity fashion brands

Data source: www.therichest.com >
Note: Chart represents annual brand earnings for the year 2013

Insights

  • Former child stars the Olson twins have amassed a large fashion empire since their departure from acting, with their fashion line earning approximately $1 billion annually
  • The average annual earnings of the top 10 celebrity fashion brands in 2013 was over $400 million
  • Five of the top ten celebrity fashion designers come from musical backgrounds
    • The most successful female singer – designer is Jessica Simpson, with an annual revenue of $750 million from her fashion label
    • The most successful male singer – designer is Jay Z, who earns $700 million yearly with his fashion line

Serena follows a successful formula

Understanding the earning power of her name in a B2C context, Serena has begun to set herself up for an equally successful life after tennis (and perhaps far more lucrative), turning to the fashion industry as a potential mega money earner, as discussed in this www.time.com article.

It’s a well-worn path, which relies on a combination of celebrity pulling power and business sensibilities – both of which it seems Serena has in spades.

So don’t feel forlorn for Serena due to her unexpected US Open exit. Despite now being 33 years of age, her on-court performances show no signs of dwindling yet. And, when she eventually replaces the racquet for the runway full-time, more success beckons.

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