Endorsement darling

Endorsement darling
Sharapova says she wants to build Sugarpova into a lifestyle brand.

It'S not too difficult to understand why Maria Sharapova is the world's highest-paid female athlete, a distinction that Forbes has bestowed on her for 10 straight years now.

The leggy 27-year-old topped the list yet again this year with US$24.4 million (S$31.1 million) in earnings. But only a fraction of that - about US$2.4 million - came from prize money in tennis tournaments.

The rest of it was earned from her endorsements of a wide range of prestigious global brands such as Nike, Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian. In June, she signed a lucrative contract with Avon Products worth a reported US$1 million a year to endorse a new line of perfume for both men and women.

Two years ago, the Russian created her own premium candy line called Sugarpova, which was officially launched in Singapore on Wednesday. Even though she still has a long runway yet as far as her tennis career is concerned, she is already thinking hard about life after she eventually retires from the court.

Top of her mind is how to build the Sugarpova brand - now sold in more than 30 different countries - and expand it beyond just candy and sweets.

"I want to build it into a lifestyle brand one day. That's a priority of mine when I have more time on my hands. I'm looking at things like clothes and accessories, all under Sugarpova," said the five-time Grand Slam champion in an interview on the sidelines of a promotional event organised by Tag Heuer and Evian.

Dressed in an all-white outfit, she was at her first public engagement since arriving in Singapore ahead of the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals tournament taking place next week at the Singapore Sports Hub.

When asked by The Business Times what she likes most about being a businesswoman, Sharapova said she's one who doesn't think twice about taking risks and is usually game to try new things.

"I love learning about things that I'm not very familiar with. I learn from people with the experience and knowledge. I'm not afraid to fail or try. I think that's why I've been successful. I don't set myself any limits to what I want to do," she said.

When it comes to aligning herself with a particular brand or product, she makes sure that she shares very similar values with the brand and connects with what it stands for.

"All my partnerships have always started with me loving the product, or getting to know people within the company whom I've become really good friends with and developed a formal relationship," she said.

After the hour-long event was over, it was a quick change of clothes into black overalls paired with a sleeveless top before zipping off to Orchard Road where hundreds of people were waiting for her to launch Sugarpova at Robinsons The Heeren.

The candy line comes in various flavours that range from Flirty, to Smitten Sour, to Splashy. A portion of all proceeds will go towards the Maria Sharapova Foundation charity.

Sharapova is one of eight female tennis players in town for the season-ending WTA Finals that is being held in Singapore for the first time. While she undoubtedly has her eye on a large slice of the record US$6.5 million purse up for grabs, winning the Billie Jean King trophy could also see Sharapova overhaul American Serena Williams as the new World No 1.


This article was first published on October 16, 2014.
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