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Tennis Star Venus Williams Signs $40 Million Deal with Reebok

Aired December 15, 2000 - 4:50 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: One of the biggest names in tennis is about to become one of the highest paid players woman in the game. Venus Williams inking a deal with Reebok that's worth a reportedly $40 million over five years.

We have sports marketing consultant Kip Koslow with us to talk more about this. Kip, according to "USA Today," Venus Williams without question now becomes the biggest woman endorser ever. Would you agree with that?

KIP KOSLOW, SPORTS MARKETING CONSULTANT: Yes, I would definitely agree with that and I think, for one you have to take a look at her performance on the court this year. You know, she won the Wimbledon title. She won the U.S. Open title and she took home two gold medals both in the singles and doubles with her sister, Serena this year. So, she had an outstanding year on the court and you've got to give her credit for that.

WATERS: I sure do. However, is it all over about performance? It does appear that the male jocks are giving way to female jocks in the sports marketing world, though?

KOSLOW: You can say that. I think one thing you're seeing out of this thing is first of all, Reebok needed to maintain a position in the marketplace, particularly women's tennis which is on the rise and has got tremendous popularity. You know, you've got the battle in the top there with Hingis, who's an Adidas athlete and you've got Lindsay Davenport who is a Nike athlete.

I think Reebok needed to maintain a position within there, and I think it also speaks volumes to what Nike and Reebok and the other shoes companies are finally recognizing is the female athlete and the female customer is a huge segment of their business. Nike about three months ago announced this huge initiative where they were going to set up a different division where it was just going to focus on women athletes and I think this is a major first step for Reebok right now with signing Venus Williams.

WATERS: Yes, the $40 million sounds like a whole heck of a lot. It's over five years. Are these high endorsement bonuses really worth it to these companies.

KOSLOW: It is. And you know again, it's really how the companies use the talent. You know, Venus Williams, she's a phenomenal player, as we know, and you know, she's going to be in the last round and in the semis and the finals in a lot of different television tournaments that are televised on TV. She'll used in a lot of Reebok commercials both print and in television.

Plus, it's also how they use her with their key customers and, you know, the big shoe retailers out there and how they use her to promote their footwear line. And it could turn into big bucks for the companies and they think, you know, you'll see especially with WNBA and the woman's U.S. Soccer you're going to start to see the woman's salaries going up.

WATERS: Well, you know how we Americans are. We like to keep score and we've been seeing Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan up there on the top of the money-making endorsement list. Does this put Venus Williams in that league?

KOSLOW: Clearly. Clearly, Venus Williams is right there on top. i mean, and really you can say, you know, her performance backs the whole thing. There are athletes out there that are hyped and they get those big dollars as well, but clearly, you know, Venus backs up the dollar performance out there on the court.

WATERS: And the dollars keep getting bigger all of the time. We're reminded of the $252 million deal for Alex Rodriguez. I mean, how high can it go?

KOSLOW: The sky is the limit, I guess. That's what we're going to find out as we go down the road here. There's a lot of free agents out there right now. Question, how much of if is going to shift to the woman?

WATERS: Yes. Kip Koslow, thanks so much.

KOSLOW: Thank you.

WATERS: Marketing expert, helping us understand the Venus Williams story.

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