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SBD Global/August 22, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Maria Sharapova's Name-Change Ploy To Promote Business Receives Mixed Response

Maria Sharapova promotes her new line of accessories to accompany her Sugarpova candy line Tuesday in N.Y.
Maria Sharapova's plan to change her name to "Sugarpova" for the duration of the U.S. Open to promote her candy line "has received a mixed response from marketers and sports pundits," according to Magda Ibrahim of MARKETING MAGAZINE. M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment CEO Steve Martin "ridiculed the stunt." Martin: "It is the oldest PR trick in the book and it clashes with the brand equity she has. Tennis is a very cool global sport and she has brand partners like Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian, so to create cheap publicity doesn’t make any sense." PR consultant Calacus Founder David Alexander tweeted, "How many more people have now heard of Sugarpova than had done 48 hours ago? Clever PR." PR Consultant Joe Favorito tweeted, "True or not...this got great buzz...which was the goal, right?" (MARKETING MAGAZINE, 8/21). FORBES' Darren Heitner wrote "it would not have been the first time that an athlete changed his or her legal name, but it would have counted as a rare occurrence of an individual seeking an alternate name for the clear and overt purpose of promoting a commercial endeavor." It also "would likely not have been worth the short-term gain that Sharapova received through the onslaught of publicity surrounding the initial announcement that a name change may have been forthcoming." President Michael Zammuto said, "It is fun to try to get short-term publicity, but fundamentally it was not going to change the direction of Sharapova’s product anyway." Zammuto also pointed out that Sharapova’s sponsors "may not have been thrilled with the potential change-of-name" (FORBES, 8/20).

PUBLICITY STUNT: ESPNW's Jane McManus wrote an "actual publicity stunt like that is beneath" Sharapova. It is "not as if she is trying to establish herself and needs a publicity bump." Sharapova's name "means something -- persistence and a will of steel, a single-mindedness that is both off-putting and admirable." McManus: "What is Sugarpova? It's the definition of selling out" (ESPNW, 8/20).

AT LEAST SHE WAS BEING UPFRONT: In London, Marina Hyde wrote there was a "certain admirable frankness to Sharapova's money-dash," and her name-change idea "would at least have the virtue of being honest." Hyde: "The sheer artless hilarity of Sugarpova would still be preferable to the stealth trolley dashes that go largely unchided. Do recall that amazing moment when Andy Murray won the U.S. Open last year, and the unedifying spectacle of him appearing to celebrate it not by crowd surfing his way up to the players' box, but by searching frantically for his sponsored watch" (GUARDIAN, 8/21).
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