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Sharapova charmed? Sponsors stick by banned tennis star

Boy, when they like you, they really like you.

Or, perhaps more accurately, when they like the bottom-line projections regarding the bucks they make from affiliation with your image, after having done a cost-benefit analysis relating to recent controversy swirling around you … .

Truly, just how charmed is tennis icon Maria Sharapova when it comes to remaining relatively untarnished in the advertising world despite recently receiving a two-year ban for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug?

The coffers might have slammed shut -- probably would have forcibly closed -- on most globally known athletes following such an episode, but most of the money that Sharapova is accustomed to making from linking up with companies like Nike and Evian will continue to flow in, notwithstanding the body blow to her previously stellar image.

Sharapova's case is notable in the realm of athlete product endorsements for two central reasons, namely these: first, it underscores just how much money an international icon can make being a celebrity endorser (reportedly, Sharapova has career earnings of about $285 million, with most of that decidedly not being from tennis winnings); and, second, her story reveals how starkly different the outcome can be for different athlete endorsers who encounter scandal.

Many of those individuals wither on the vine.

Not so Sharapova, who obviously continues to be hugely popular. As noted above, Nike remains on board as a big-time sponsor, voicing its view that the tennis star/personality "did not intentionally" break any rules. And the CEO of racket maker Head, which also continues to support Sharapova, calls the tennis ban "a flawed decision."

The bottom line regarding Sharapova, at least for the next couple years: She won't have to continue hitting tennis balls and winning tournaments to collect her hefty endorsement checks.

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