Does Maria Sharapova have the right to decide her brand identity?
There has been a lot of criticism of tennis star Maria Sharapova over the last couple of days.
One of the beauties of the women’s game and eminently marketable, she suggested that she might change her name ahead of the US Open in order to promote her range of confectionery, Sugarpova.
The plan involved adding the sweets logo to her kit during the tournament and most reports of her proposals have details about the range.
Sharapova, incidentally one of the world’s richest female athletes, now seems to have decided that she won't go through with her plan and yet there has been scorn poured on her plans by commentators and experts alike.
The gist of most was that this was a tired, old, tacky publicity stunt that did nothing for the image of Sharapova or tennis.
But has she really done anything wrong?
Athletes, clubs and sports competitions are now sponsored, stadia change names after securing investment and few can forget the sight of Britain’s first Grand Slam winner in seven decades, Andy Murray, hunting for a sponsor’s watch before receiving his trophy at the US Open last year.
Tennis may consider itself to be above sports such as snooker, where Jimmy White changed his name to Jimmy Brown after sponsorship from HP Sauce, but does that really matter?
Other sponsors, such as Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian, are unlikely to approve of her actions it is said, but does mention of them in reference to her actions actually cause them embarrassment or simply reinforce their association with her? I doubt any will be shaking their heads in dismay.
I would not say for one moment that athletes are always the best people to decide on their brand identity – but certainly tennis players are considered to be amongst the more intelligent athletes taking part in sport – but Sharapova has been around for long enough to know what she wants and how it will affect her brand and her earning potential away from the tennis court.
Whether Sharapova was serious or not, the fact is that now everyone is taking about her and her brand of sweets.
And if that was the plan in the first place, it’s mission accomplished and regardless of how tried and tested the idea is, does that really matter?