If you follow women in sports, the name Serena Williams is likely instantly recognizable. Maria Sharapova probably also has a familiar ring. But what about Pusarla Venkata Sindhu? Can you place that athlete in her sport and nation?
Even if her identity isn’t automatically known around the world, corporate sponsors invest in India’s P.V. Sindhu. She landed a spot at number 7 on the Forbes 2018 list of highest paid women in sports.
Some athletes earn high team salaries, but the ones with the greatest income achieve it through endorsements. From apparel companies like Nike and Adidas to food producers like General Mills and Gatorade to equipment makers like Bridgestone and Goodyear—many industries want to attach a sports celebrity’s image to their products. And they’re willing to pay big bucks to do so.
Tennis great Serena Williams took the number 1 slot for world’s highest paid female athlete. Williams readily claims a portfolio of market-attracting traits: She plays the most-watched women’s sport in the world. She plays well—no one questions that she is the best of the best at present. She has an intriguing and visible competition on the court with her own sister, Venus. She is African-American and a successful break-through athlete in a sport traditionally played by white and Asian players. And now, she is a mother—a role that analysts predict will open up a whole new line of endorsements.
But P.V. Sindhu has few of those traits going for her. Yes, she has the skills in her sport. She took home a silver medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years ago. But her sport is badminton, not the globally followed tennis, soccer, or even basketball. So why is Sindhu worth more than $8 million per year in endorsements?
It comes down to location, location, location—and that location’s potential effect on the almighty dollar…er, rupee. With more than 1.06 billion people, India holds nearly one-fifth of the world’s population. That’s a huge marketing audience. So businesses wanting an advertising foothold in the Indian market seek athletes to endorse. They want those not only gifted in athleticism, but also having a national, patriotic appeal. They look for both men and women. India has a dearth of female sports stars—so P.V. Sindhu readily rose to the top. Her talent plus nationality equal a combination that big corporations believe they can take to the bank.
And just by doing her best with her gifts, Sindhu gets to shine—right where she was placed. (1 Corinthians 7:17)