Have celebrity endorsements finally gone too far? Maria Sharapova’s sweet idea is smashed by tennis commentators’ boycott

But was former Wimbledon champion’s plan to call herself ‘Sugarpova’ at US Open simply a publicity stunt?

Arts Correspondent

Television commentators will refuse to call Maria Sharapova by the name of her branded sweets even if she does succeed in changing her name to “Sugarpova” during the US Open, with one saying any such move would treat tennis “with contempt”.

The 26-year-old former Wimbledon champion, the highest-earning sportswoman last year, is reportedly considering changing her name to match that of her sweets business for the Grand Slam fortnight.

David Mercer, who commentates for the BBC and Eurosport, said: “I will not be saying ‘Sugarpova’. It strikes me as ludicrous if we’re getting to a situation where players change their names for two-week tournaments. It’s treating the sport with contempt.”

Barry Millns, who will commentate on the US Open for Sky, said: “I would feel uncomfortable calling her ‘Sugarpova’. Where do you draw the line? What if someone decides to call themselves ‘Barclays Bank’ for the fortnight? It’s wrong.”

He continued: “I wouldn’t have thought any broadcaster would allow their commentators to call her that. It’s blatant product placement. If this was true and she wins the title does it go down in the record books as Maria Sugarpova?”

Tennis experts suggested the talk may just be a marketing ploy for the sweets without her ever following through. Sharapova allegedly applied to the Florida Supreme Court for a “quickie” name change, according to a report in The Times, though a spokeswoman for the court replied no application had been made to them.

A spokesman for the US Tennis Association said that no formal application had been made to the body requesting such a name change for the tournament, which starts on Monday.

The report added the idea had been cooked up between the tennis player and IMG, her management company. IMG did not respond to requests for comment.

Forbes magazine revealed this month that Sharapova was the highest-earning female athlete in the world with an estimated income of $29m (£18.5m) in the year to June, boosted by endorsements by companies including Nike and Head.

The Independent tennis correspondent said he was surprised that Sharapova would consider such a marketing move. Paul Newman said: “It’s absolutely bizarre. It seems to be totally unlike Sharapova. She’s a classy individual. This, on the other hand, seems very tacky.”

The ploy to publicise the brand has already worked ahead of the event last night in New York to mark the anniversary of the sweets’ launch, however, with the story picked up around the world and shared across social networks.

Sharapova became a global star after she won Wimbledon at the age of just 17. She subsequently won each of the other Grand Slam tournaments including the US Open in 2006. The tennis star launched Sugarpova – a move away from traditionally healthy products that sports stars advertise – ahead of the US Open last year and they are now sold around the world including at Selfridges, with some of the profits going to her charitable foundation.

The sweets were created alongside Jeff Rubin, chief executive of IT’Sugar, with $500,000 (£320,000) of her own money put into the project.

The website calls the brand a “premium candy line that reflects the fun, fashionable, sweet side of international tennis sensation Maria Sharapova”. The tennis star has, the site revealed, a “surprising sweet tooth”. 

The business took 18 months to put together, and the shop window during the launch read: “The No 1 women’s tennis star puts her spin on sweets, with a smashing line of gummies.”

There are 15 varieties of the sweets, which the New York Times dubbed the “Spice Girls of the candy world,” with names including “flirty”, “cheeky” and “chic”. There is, of course, a “sporty” variety in the guise of different coloured tennis balls. The bags of sweets are $5.99 each on the website.

Brand slam: Maria’s other business interests

Head

Maria Sharapova signed a multi-year contract with the racquet and bag manufacturer in 2011, reportedly worth $2m (£1.3m) a year. It includes new racquet lines and accessories across a range of products.

Nike

The World No 3 has her own branded Nike collection, and she extended her contract with the sportswear manufacturer in 2010 for a further eight years in a deal believed to be worth $70m (£44.6m).

TAG Heuer

The luxury watch maker has used Sharapova in campaigns for over four years and she has designed a line of sunglasses for the brand.

Samsung

As the mobile phone company looked to hit the Russian market, they signed up Sharapova on a three-year deal last April, to front the drive.

Porsche

In April, she signed a three-year deal with luxury German car manufacturer Porsche to become the company’s “first global ambassador”.

Evian

Sharapova signed a multi-year deal with Evian in 2010 and featured in international campaigns. “I’ve been drinking their products… for years,” she said at the time.

Cole Haan

The tennis star first signed up with Cole Haan for its sporting collection in spring 2009 and the ballerina flat shoes she designed were top sellers.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on