SBD/May 26, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sweet Tooth: Maria Sharapova Adding Candy Brand To Growing Marketing Portfolio

Sharapova is the highest-paid female athlete in the world
Tennis player Maria Sharapova is about to announce a new partnership with Jeff Rubin “to develop her own brand of candy and sweets” called Sugarpova, according to Eric Wilson in a front-page piece in the Styles Section of the N.Y. TIMES. Rubin "helped create Dylan’s Candy Bar in 2001 and a chain of candy shops inside F.A.O. Schwarz stores (called F.A.O. Schweetz) in the 1990s.” His plans for Sugarpova include gumballs “shaped like tennis balls, and gummy candies will be packaged in containers shaped like tennis-ball cans.” He “hopes to have them ready in time for a rollout” at the U.S. Open in August. Sharapova is the “highest paid female athlete" in the world; Forbes estimates that she made $24.5M from June '09-June '10, about $4M “more than her nearest competitor, Serena Williams.” Sharapova last year “renewed her contract with Nike in an expanded eight-year deal that is estimated to be worth as much as $70 million, the most ever for a female athlete, including royalties from clothes she designs for Nike.” She also “designs shoes and handbags for Cole Haan and endorses luxury brands like Tiffany and Tag Heuer, and the electronics company Sony Ericsson.” Sharapova is “pushing both Nike and Cole Haan to produce more of her designs, creating the candy business and now expanding her online presence with a Facebook page with 4.3 million fans.” She noted that she has more Facebook fans "than any other female athlete.”

SPONSOR FRIENDLY: Wilson reports Sharapova read a recent USA Today article "that shocked her, about the financial problems facing former professional athletes.” She then called Max Eisenbud, her agent at IMG, "and told him to contact all her sponsors.” Their contracts “typically limited each company’s access to Ms. Sharapova to 10 or 12 days each year.” Sharapova said to Eisenbud, “I don’t care what’s in the contracts. Tell them I’ll do whatever they want, whatever they need.” She was “determined to set Brand Maria in motion well before” she retires. Wilson notes as part of her “new deal with Nike, the company last year finally began producing and selling a line based on her on-court attire, and dressing several up-and-coming players” in “Maria Sharapova looks” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/26).
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