The 15-year-old golf star confirmed Wednesday she has gone professional and has signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony in the first steps of what is expected to be a marketing blitzkrieg.
"From the first time I grabbed a golf club I knew I would do it for the rest of my life," said Wie at a press conference in Honolulu, held prior to the start of her school day, to announce her pro status. "My goal is to become the best golfer in the world."
Nike executives declined to reveal details of her contract, but she is believed to be receiving between $4 million and $5 million a year. It is also likely there will be a Michelle Wie golf apparel line, similar to the merchandise deals Nike has with Tiger Woods and Serena Williams, and that she will be the centerpiece of upcoming Nike marketing campaigns.
"As far as Nike is concerned, Michelle is a unique individual, and she has the potential to transcend her sport, like many great athletes," said Bob Woods, the president of Nike Golf, at the Honolulu event. "From a Nike brand perspective, it will be a great story to tell as it unfolds."
The deal is another indication that female athletes are now garnering major sponsorship deals and can command high price tags. Maria Sharapova earned $18.2 million last year, while Williams racked up $12.7 million, according to Forbes magazine. By comparison, Tiger Woods took in a whopping $87 million.
While she can't officially become a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association until she turns 18, Wie, who is a high school junior and six days shy of her 16th birthday, has already played in a number of high-profile events against men, and as a professional she plans to play in both PGA and LPGA events. She will make her professional debut as a Nike athlete next week at the LPGA Samsung World Championships.
With her golf aptitude and wholesome image, Wie, who is represented by the William Morris Agency, is considered a savvy marketing force who could hawk products in a wide range of categories. To improve and refine her look, Wie has also reportedly hired image consultant-to-the-stars David Lipman, who has worked with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie.
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