By John Strege
A U.S. Women's Open victory and the whirlwind media tour that followed suggests that Michelle Wie is positioned to reclaim her position among the top money earners in golf and join the elite among American female athletes in endorsement earnings.
"Right now, it's Danica Patrick and everybody else," said Evan Morgenstein, president and CEO of CelebExperts, a corporate consulting agency that assists companies in evaluating and leveraging celebrity spokespersons. "I think Michelle can build a niche for herself that is second only to Danica Patrick and well ahead of everybody else."
(Getty Images photo)
In 2006, Wie's first full year as a professional, she ranked sixth on the Golf Digest 50 of the game's biggest earners in total income, with $20.2 million, most of it from off-course earnings. By 2010, she ranked 50th ($4.8 million, $4 million off course) and has not appeared on the list since. Paula Creamer, at 48th, was the top-ranked woman ($5.33 million) on the 2013 list.
"She's got great name recognition…that goes beyond the sport of golf," Morgenstein said. "There really is no negative. She's not a bad person. She's grown into her success, though it's taken a little bit of time. The cool thing is, she's a completely different age now, with completely different opportunities."
Wie's endorsement portfolio currently consists of Nike Golf, Kia Motors America, Omega, McDonald's and Sime Darby. A built-in advantage of winning the U.S. Women's Open, Morgenstein said, is that "it provides an opportunity to solidify [existing] relationships. Do they want to reinvest against their investment. That's what smart people do.
"Here's what I don't see in Michelle Wie's portfolio. I don't see any personal care products, hair care, makeup, like Maria Sharapova doing something with Avon. That's the model I'm going after if I'm Michelle Wie's management.
"She's a beautiful woman, no longer a girl. The personal care sector is always looking for a female celebrity athlete that has momentum. Fitness is a whole other area she can get into. She can speak with authority to women about fitness. I think she has an unbelievable opportunity."
There is a caveat, of course. "She has to continue to produce on the course," Morgenstein said. "That's the covenant sewn into the wool that she has to abide by."