It is well understood that a majority of today’s athletes are collecting more income through endorsement deals rather than their actual on-the-field performances. Reasons for this can depend on a number of variables. But, unfortunately for the ladies the largest of them being gender. Sorry ladies, but according to the 2013 census bureau, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the U.S. In the realm of sports, this gap is even much larger. For example, the WNBA caps athletes off at an annual $107,000 while LeBron James is amassed a whopping $62 million in 2014. Despite these market challenges, there are still plenty of women in sports earning their fair share of the party. Check out the top five highest paid women in sports below.
Endorsement Earnings: $9 million
Total Income: $15 million
Topping off #5 on the list world’s highest paid women in sports is Nascar heroine, Danica Patrick. In 2013, Danica Patrick made history breaking a 13-year standing record for the fastest pole time at the Daytona 500 race making her the first female Nascar driver to ever take a pole in a Nascar race. Nascar Fans- say what you want about Danica Patrick’s skills, but she seems to be doing OK on the business side of the house bringing in a whopping $9 million in endorsement earnings last year. Despite not having a career win, Danica Patrick has appeared in 12 consecutive super bowl commercials and landed a big-time endorsement contract with her primary sponsor, Go Daddy. Let’s face it, Danica Patrick is a babe and she drives race cars for a living. Check out more of Danica Patrick here.
Endorsement Earnings: $9 million
Total Income: $15.7 million
Former #1, Victoria Azarenka hits the list at #4. In 2012, Azarenka set the single year record for female athlete in any sport by amassing almost $8 million in prize money. The Russian-born tennis ace has an Olympic Gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics, and is coming off of back-to-back Australian Opens singles titles in 2012, 2013. Her endorsement partners include American Express, Nike, Wilson, Six Star Pro Nutrition, InstaForex, and Citizen Watch. In 2013, Azarenka landed a deal with Red Bull- making her the first ever tennis player to enter an endorsement deal with the beverage making giant.
Endorsement Earnings: $15 million
Total Income: $18.2 million
Reaching #3 on the list of highest paid women in sports is yet again another tennis pro. China’s Li Na earned her notoriety in 2011 after winning both the French and Australian Open titles. The win in Paris was record setting, as Li became the first Asian-born winner of the Grand Slam singles event. The fame caught the attention of several endorsers including several Chinese companies, Nike, Samsung, Mercedes, Babolat, Visa, Crown Limited, and in 2013, Williams entered into a deal with Rolex.
Endorsement Earnings: $12 million
Total Income: $20.5 million
Widely regarded as the greatest female tennis player in history, Serena Williams holds the most Major singles, doubles, and mixed titles combined amongst both male and female active players. Over the course of her nearly two decade-long career, Williams has won four WTA Tour Championships, four Olympic Gold medals, and is no question one of the highest touted athletes in women sports history. Today, Serena Williams is currently ranked #1, becoming the oldest #1 player in WTA history. Although she’s cut back on her endorsement offers in recent years, Serena is still recognized by Nike, Gatorade, Miami Dolphins, HSN, Sleep Sheets, and OPI. This tennis star is also known to place her earnings to good use as she actively supports a number of social causes, has helped fund the building of schools in Kenya, and contributes to almost a dozen charities a year.
Endorsement Earnings: $23 million
Total Income: $29 million
When it comes to the world’s top 5 highest-paid women in sports, tennis players rule the list, taking 4 of the 5 spots. For the ninth straight year, Maria Sharapova takes the top of this – This time accumulating $29 million in total earnings. After winning Wimbledon at 17 years old- Maria Sharapova’s career took flight earning her lots of media attention. Since then, Maria has captured 28 other titles, 4 Grand Slam wins and has not only become the most endorsed female in professional tennis, but also the entire planet when it comes to female athletes. Today, this 6-foot-2 inch tantalizing blonde bombshell has landed several multimillion-dollar endorsement deals from several key companies making her the highest paid woman in sports 9 years in a row! Her current sponsorship roster consists of Porsche, Nike, Head, Samsung Electronics, Tag Heuer, Canon, and Evian water.
Sharapova uses her endorsement opportunities to pay it forward. Today, she is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, and devotes time, effort and money to other charitable organizations including Variety- The Children’s Charity, the Maria Sharapova Foundation, (RED), Wish Upon a Hero Foundation, and more.