Maria Sharapova drug row: Do brands stand to gain?

News broke over two days ago of Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova failing a drug test. Since then she has been dropped by several major sponsors such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche.

Nike, in a statement to the media, said: “We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

According to The Independent, the partnership with Nike is said to be close to US$70 million and was first inked in 2010, for a period of eight years.

As expected, brands stand to gain from making such a big decision – at least in the short term, in the form of brand mentions online.

According to Amobee Brand Intelligence data, since the failed drug test story broke, between 2pm Eastern time on March 7 to 10:30am Eastern time on March 8; there have been 238,266 tweets around Maria Sharapova. Approximately 4.5% of those tweets, or 10,789 of those tweets, also mentioned that Nike had suspended it’s contract with her.

The Amobee data indicated that digital content engagement has increased 88% around Nike. It said, for Nike, the last peak on digital content was around February 18, around Nike’s announcement that they were severing ties with Manny Pacquiao after he made anti-gay comments.

Both of these peaks for Nike in the last three months were around ending endorsement deals, said the Amobee data.

Meanwhile luxury watch brand Tag Heuer also told The Guardian it has stopped negotiations with the Tennis star and “in view of the current situation, the brand has decided not to renew the contract with Sharapova.

In total, TAG Heuer had 5,993 tweets in that same time period. Another 4,127 tweets mentioned Porsche had suspended further marketing activities with the tennis player.

For TAG Heuer, there was 220% more digital content engagement around the brand on March 8 than on February 5 when actor  Chris Hemsworth, attended a TAG Heuer cocktail bash in Sydney.

Porsche, which signed a contract with Sherapova in 2013, said “until further details are released and we can analyse the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities.” After the incident 4,127 Tweets mentioned Porsche has suspended further activities around her.


Rezwana Manjur
Southeast Asia Editor
Marketing Magazine Singapore
Rezwana Manjur, a true blue city girl and complete social animal, spends half her time sifting through advertising scandals, and the other half testing out brands' retail marketing strategies at the mall. She enjoys traveling and fantasising over the charming lads on hit TV show Mad Men. Most weekends, she turns nocturnal, except when brunch comes into play.

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