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Maria Sharapova’s Brand Partners Face Dilemma After Drug Test

Kayode Sesan

Brands including Evian, Porsche and Tag Heuer are scrambling to react to Maria Sharapova’s admission that she has tested positive for a banned drug, marketing magazine reports.

The 28 year-old Russian tennis star’s main brand supporter, Nike, which has worked with her since she was 12, has already acted by suspending its contract.

Watch brand Tag Heuer has said it will not renew its contract with Sharapova, who yesterday held a press conference to admit she had tested positive for a drug called meldonium, also known as mildronate.

Tag Heuer said in a statement: “Maria Sharapova was under contract with TAG Heuer until December 31th, 2015. We had been in talks to extend our collaboration. In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations, and has decided not to renew the contract with Ms Sharapova.”

Sharapova has claimed she had been taking the drug since 2006 for health issues and had not realised it had been added to the International Tennis Federation’s banned list at the start of this year.

She said: “I take responsibility for my professionalism in my job and I made a big mistake. I know there will be consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope I will be given another chance to play tennis again. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I have let my fans down.”

Sharapova is due to appear in a forthcoming campaign for mineral water brand Evian, according to a post on her Facebook page which shows her shooting another appearance in its long-running baby-themed advertising.

Evian parent company Danone has not yet answered requests for comment.

Other brands associated with the star include Avon, Head and Supergoop, and she also launched her own brand of high-end confectionery, Sugarpova, in 2012. Two months ago Sugarpova expanded into chocolate through a partnership with Polish confectioner Baron Chocolatier.

The International Tennis Federation said that Sharapova had accepted the result of a drugs test carried out on 26 January and will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March.

Sharapova told the press: “It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years. But on January 1st the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known.”

Nike quickly announced it was suspending its relationship with her until further notice. It said in a statement: “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.”

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