Sharapova To Sugarpova: Why The Name Change Would Have Been A Silly Business Strategy
Darren Heitner, Contributor
Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova purportedly planned to legally change her name to Maria Sugarpova. According to Sharapova’s agent, the suggested change is no longer a consideration – Maria Sharapova will remain as Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova was reported to have asked the Florida Supreme Court to grant her the ability to officially change her legal name from Sharapova and Sugarpova. It would not have been the first time that an athlete changed his or her legal name, but it would have counted as a rare occurrence of an individual seeking an alternate name for the clear and overt purpose of promoting a commercial endeavor. It also would likely not have been worth the short-term gain that Sharapova received through the onslaught of publicity surrounding the initial announcement that a name change may have been forthcoming.
In 2008, former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson received approval from a Florida court to change his name to Chad Ocho Cinco. Johnson, known for his flamboyant personality, had the stated intention of changing his name to reflect the Spanish version of his jersey number – No. 85. Four years later, Ocho Cinco went back to being Chad Johnson when the Florida court granted his request to revert back to his birth-name.
While Johnson briefly changed his name to reflect his jersey number, professional basketball player Ron Artest wanted to inspire and bring youth together. Thus, he asked a Los Angeles court for permission to go from being Ron Artest to Metta World Peace. That change was made effective as of September 2011 and remains his name to date.
Johnson and Artest simply serve as recent examples of many athletes who have changed their legal names in the past. What stands out the most concerning Sharapova’s recent effort to scrap her last name is that it was made in a direct effort to promote her brand. Some could argue that Johnson’s short-lived change to Ocho Cinco was similarly made for commercial purposes, and if true, at least the former NFL player was more discrete about his true intentions. While Sharapova’s “publicity stunt” is certainly generating numerous headlines and likely generating the amount of press that she hoped to garner, it was likely a strategy destined to not achieve the goals that Sharapova had in the first place.
“It is fun to try to get short-term publicity, but fundamentally it was not going to change the direction of Sharapova’s product anyway,” explained President of Brand.com Michael Zammuto to FORBES. Zammuto, who focuses on the online presence for individuals and brands noted that Sharapova’s name gets searched roughly 1.5 million times per month while the Sugarpova name only receives about 18,000 searches in the same time span. ”The problem is that Sharapova changing her name would have gotten short-term attention, and she realized that the strategy of bootstrapping on her personality just would not have been enough.”
Zammuto also pointed out that Sharapova’s sponsors, including Nike, Head, Samsung Electronics, Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian may not have been thrilled with the potential change-of-name. FORBES’ most recent report on the world’s highest-paid female athletes estimates Sharapova’s endorsements at $23 million.
In the end, Sharapova is still Sharapova. However, according to Zammuto, Sugarpova needs a re-branding. ”She has tried to build this entire brand around her publicity,” said Zammuto. ”My argument is that it’s not going that well.”