Tennis star Maria Sharapova has already found herself in a little bit of hot water over her line of gummy candy, “Sugarpova
.” In June, nutritionists wagged their fingers
at the athlete for what they viewed as encouraging children who revere her to eat sugary sweets.
Now, Sharapova is inviting even more scrutiny. In a promotional stunt, she reportedly wanted to change her last name to that of her candy line, Sugarpova, through the Sept. 9 end of the U.S. Open.
ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon
that the name change wasn’t going to be happening after all. Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, said the stunt was intended to be a “fun, out-of-the-box type thing” similar to driving a glass truck full of candy around Miami.
“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,” he said.
There were hints the name change wasn’t really going to happen anyway. Eisenbud didn’t answer calls from USA Today’s For the Win blog, and the U.S. Tennis Association said no one ever registered for the tournament under the name “Maria Sugarpova.”
Brand.com President Mike Zammuto says he hopes the travel excuse is just that: an excuse.
“That would make their marketing strategy for Maria and Sugarpova a pretty poorly planned one,” he says.
Zammuto says the actual reason is probably more complicated. Sharapova has a $70 million endorsement contract with Nike, for one thing, and the athletic wear brand could have objected. Plus, there’s Google to consider.
“I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the real reason is someone recognizing that basing the entire marketing strategy on Maria’s celebrity won’t work if she gets 1.5 million Google searches a month and Sugarpova gets 18,000,” he says.
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, columnist Darren Heitner compared Sharapova’s proposed name change to Ron Artest’s switch to the name “Metta World Peace” (which he still has) and Chad Johnson becoming Chad Ocho Cinco, which is his jersey number (he changed it back).
Those weren’t brand names, though. We’ll still have to wait to see which athlete will pull that one off first.