SBD/Issue 87/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Sharapova's Early Aussie Exit Calls Nike Deal Into Question

Sharapova Loses Five Days After
Signing Record Deal With Nike
Tennis player Maria Sharapova Monday lost her first-round match at the Australian Open just five days after signing a record eight-year, $70M contract extension with Nike, and it appears she did not get the deal solely "based on the way she's playing," according to Greg Couch of FANHOUSE. It is her role "to be Anna Kournikova, only with results." While women's tennis "needs Maria Sharapova," it "walks a tightrope right along with her, between whether it is selling sport or sex appeal." It is "fine to sell both, with the message being that women can be strong, fit, athletic and attractive all in one." But it is "important that the only women's sport accepted into the mainstream doesn't drop the 'sport' side of the equation." Sharapova is "supposed to be more than just looks, yet she has gotten past the third round of a major just twice in the past two years." Meanwhile, Couch wrote Sharapova Monday wore an "embarrassing-looking green dress/thing," and if she is "going to dress up in a girl scout uniform from the 1970s with lingerie over the top, or mosquito netting, or whatever that was, and then go out and be afraid to hit a second serve, well, that's just embarrassing." She "makes statements not only with her grit, but also her outfits," and it is "particularly embarrassing when she dresses up in such a goofy outfit, and then stinks up the place" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/18). In Melbourne, Dan Silkstone notes Nike received "little early return on its investment" after Sharapova's first-round exit (Melbourne AGE, 1/19).

FEELING BLUE: The AP's Tanalee Smith wrote Sharapova's "blue dress with a patterned green mesh overlay was the first of the new Maria Sharapova Collection, a line of Nike tennis dresses and two-piece sets available this year" that Sharapova helped design. Maria Kirilenko, who defeated Sharapova Monday, said of the dress, "It was blue, I think, like Powerade. It was a good dress. She always has nice dresses." Smith noted four other Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players -- Kai-Chen Chang, Julie Goerges, Anastasia Pivovarova and Madison Keys -- "will compete in Sharapova's designs this year" (AP, 1/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted reviews of the dress "were on par with Sharapova's disappointing performance on the court" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/18).

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