Tennis player Maria Sharapova has decided "not to change her name to Sugarpova for the U.S. Open next week," according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's agent, said that there was "serious consideration" given to changing Sharapova's name in an attempt to promote her line of candy. However, he said Sharapova's team "ultimately decided against it." Eisenbud: "Maria has pushed her team to do fun, out-of-the-box-type things to get the word out about Sugarpova. In Miami, we're going to fill a glass truck full of candy and drive it around town. This was an idea that fell along those lines. But, at the end of the day, we would have to change all her identification, she has to travel to Japan and China right after the tournament and it was going to be very difficult" (ESPN.com, 8/20). In London, Neil Harman reported the name change would have been "for the two-week duration of the US Open." Sharapova had "asked about a 'quickie' name-change through the Supreme Court of Florida" and had planned to "revert to Sharapova" after the tournament ends. Meanwhile, it is believed that the "striking emblem of Sugarpova candy, a pair of red lips, will feature somewhere on her attire" during the tournament (LONDON TIMES, 8/20).
GOING DOWN A BAD ROAD: ESPN's Jemele Hill called Sharapova's potential name change "disgraceful" and said she is "better than ... a cheap ploy for attention." Hill: "As an accomplished female tennis player, do I really want people calling me Sugarpova? She may only get this name change for a few weeks, but that's sticking. ... I don't know if I would want my brand to be that because it's already hard enough for women athletes to be taken seriously. So this strikes me as something that's making it that much more harder." ESPN's Adnan Virk said this would be "something for a player who's trying to make a name for themselves." However, Sharapova is a "major player ... and probably doesn’t need this kind of a parlor trick." Hill said, "This is another one of those things that kind of separates Serena Williams from everybody else. Can you imagine her being Sugar Serena, Serena Sugar? Not going down, not how she thinks" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/20). The N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey tweeted, "Sharapova name change story reads like something out of The Onion." ESPN's Michele Steele tweeted, "Sharapova has always done a fine job staying classy with her marketing. This is not classy. Fans would boo her for it."
Colts QB Andrew Luck yesterday signed a multiyear deal with Indianapolis-based audio products company Klipsch, and said that he "will help design products for Klipsch that likely will bear his name," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Luck "emphasized that during the season his primary focus will be on football." But he added, “During the off-season I’d like to get together (with Klipsch officials) and put my architecture degree to use." Luck said that Klipsch was "immediately appealing ... because it was a local company with a quality product." Schoettle noted the "local element was just as important." Luck "won’t have to fly all over the country to work with Klipsch, which will allow him to keep a tight focus on football." Luck and his agent, Will Wilson of WMG, "approached Klipsch last off-season about doing a deal." Luck said that he "will likely appear in Klipsch commercials, but not until after this season is over." He added that he signed "'a couple' of other sponsorship deals during the last off-season and those will be announced in coming weeks and months." He "declined to say which companies those deals were with" (IBJ.com, 8/19). Schoettle noted the Klipsch deal is expected to be "worth a six- or seven-figure payday" for Luck. Sources said that it "could include a tie-in with Luck's charities of choice" (IBJ.com, 8/17).
Castrol today announced it will be ending its sponsorship of John Force Racing after next season. The decision brings an end to three decades of support during which Castrol became the foremost brand associated with Force as he won 15 NHRA Funny Car championships. In a statement, Castrol said it made the decision because it planned to “pursue new ways to engage ... consumers and customers.” It is the second major sponsor John Force Racing has lost this summer. Ford announced it planned to discontinue its manufacturing support of the team last month. Force said that he was disappointed to see both Castrol and Ford go but remains optimistic about the future. He added, “I have other sponsors that are strong. I’m not going to go out of business.” He said the team, which now features his daughters Courtney and Brittany, will look to replace Castrol with a new long-term sponsor following the '14 season. Force: “We’re looking for the right deals. I’m addicted to racing. I love it. My deal is to get the right company to go the next 30 years.” John Force Racing’s current sponsors include Traxxas, AAA Auto Club of Southern California, Mac Tools, Brand Source and others.
Lead ATP sponsor Corona’s logo has been off the nets of the last two North American stops as a result of a recent corporate change at the beer’s parent company. As part of Corona’s sponsorship, it is entitled to net signage at all ATP events. Corona is owned by Grupo Modelo, which was recently acquired by A-B InBev. But the deal did not include use of Corona’s marks in North America, where it is controlled now by Crown Imports. The ATP in a statement said, "Following the recent combination of Grupo Modelo and A-B InBev, and until the new plans for 2014 are announced, Corona logos will not appear on the nets during the final two U.S. hard court tournaments this year. Corona remains the highly valued premier global partner of the ATP World Tour." Corona’s deal runs through ‘15. The logo did not appear on the nets during last week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, and is not on the nets during the current Winston-Salem Open.
NBC Sports "figures it can kick up ratings" for its EPL games and "wants advertisers to pay for those higher numbers," according to Jon Lafayette of BROADCASTING & CABLE. Despite what "media buyers say is a 25%-50% price hike from what Fox and ESPN charged last year, several advertisers already have bought seven-figure sponsorship packages" that span 380 live games and 600 hours of EPL shoulder programming. Early sponsors include GM, Chrysler, Land Rover, Geico, Liberty Mutual, Morgan Stanley, Anheuser-Busch, Burger King, EA Sports and online sports equipment retailer Sports Endeavors. NBC Sports Group Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Seth Winter said, "That’s just the tip of the iceberg because we are working to establish the premium we believe the sport deserves. So some of our negotiations are a bit slower than we might have liked." Winter has been "telling advertisers that the Premier League’s audience profile will be similar" to what the NHL attracts: "upscale young men." Winter said that he is "looking to add two kinds of sponsors." Some are brands that "advertise on other sports properties looking for male consumers," while others are "less traditional TV advertisers that believe Premier League soccer is a good fit" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 8/19 issue).
EXTRA HEADACHE: In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald reported Comcast on Saturday "chose to distribute" NBC's Extra Time game feeds for the EPL through its Xfinity On Demand platform. That was "a good idea in theory," but "a total disaster in practice." There was the issue of game feeds "not showing up" until 9:50am ET, "just 10 minutes before the games were to start." Because the feeds went live so close to kickoff, "many fans weren’t sure if the system was working properly." An "even worse problem" arose after kickoff. Tannenwald: "Say you started out watching Sunderland-Fulham, then wanted to switch over to West Ham-Cardiff City. When you did so, you got West Ham-Cardiff at the start of the broadcast, instead of live. If you then switched back to Sunderland-Fulham, you ended up either at the point where you left off or at zero again" (PHILLY.com, 8/19).
The Chick-fil-A Bowl College Corner, a new hospitality area, will debut during the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September between the 10th green and 11th tee. The area at the PGA Tour's finale will include a 300-person hospitality tent with covered open-air seating, all-inclusive food and beverage, TVs and tailgate-style games. Former college football coaches, players and golfers are expected to make appearances (Chick-fil-A Bowl).
A MIGHTY WIND: In Chicago, Danny Ecker noted the Western Golf Assocation "has surpassed its corporate sponsorship goals" for next month's BMW Championship and has "added 20 more hospitality tents than originally planned to accommodate demand from Chicago-area companies." Tournament VP Vince Pellegrino said that chalets "had been designated only for the final three holes, but nearly two dozen sponsors purchased packages in recent months that pushed tournament organizers to build along the 15th hole as well." The "strong showing from Chicago's corporate base will help" Conway Farms Golf Club get the tournament back in '15 "after it heads to Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver next year" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 8/19).
SKY'S THE LIMIT: In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks reported the PGA Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open is "adding 20 new skyboxes to the famously rambunctious 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale." That will "bring the total number of boxes at the 16th hole to 192." Event organizers also are "adding greenside suites and cabanas at the 16th." Meanwhile, Tournament Chair Tom King announced that Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera "will be the naming rights sponsor" for the event's pro-am in '14 and '15. King said that corporate and sponsorship interest in the event is "up," and that is "fueling the added boxes" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/19).
ENJOY YOUR STAY: Wyndham Worldwide Senior VP/Marketing & Communications Alyson Johnson said of the company's sponsorship of the PGA Tour Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, "We have about 300 guests we bring in. When you arrive here, there's no question it's a Wyndham event. It's a great source of pride for our associates. Back in our corporate office in Parsippany (N.Y.), we have a week-long celebration because it's a source of pride." Johnson said of the company's decision on whether to extend its sponsorship, "Typically the tour will start to look at its sponsors a year and a half before they're up. We haven't gotten there yet. This is the first year (of a four-year sponsorship). We are thrilled with this relationship we have. It feels like this is our community, too" (BUSINESS JOURNAL OF THE GREATER TRIAD AREA, 8/16 issue).