They’ve just ditched a girl named Maria.
Swiss luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer and German sports car manufacturer Porsche dropped their sponsorship of Maria Sharapova Tuesday, a day after apparel giant Nike dropped the the 28-year-old Russian tennis star.
Their departures come as Grindeks, the Latvian company that produces meldonium, said a normal course of treatment with the cardiac drug is four to six weeks. Sharapova said Monday that she had taken meldonium, also known as mildronate, for 10 years — though she didn’t specify how frequently she took it during that time. Sharapova, who faces a competition ban, is a five-time Grand Slam winner. In 2015, Forbes estimated her endorsement earnings at $ 23 million. But it will take a lot to get that earning power back, says Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University’s business school. “This is going to pretty much bring to an end for some time to come her ability to draw commercial sponsorships,” Chiagouris tells the Daily News. “That’s partly a function of her age. She’s at a later stage in her career where she’d have to come back and win championships to prove everyone wrong.”
Maria Sharapova is losing sponsors as part of the aftermath of her failed drug test.
Chiagouris, a former chairman of the Advertising Research Foundation, predicts sponsors will protect their brands by steering away from Sharapova unless she can win championships in the next few years. “They have so many options — so many younger up-and-coming, less expensive athletes. Why should they take a risk with her?” he says.
New York crisis manager Michael Gordon says Sharapova was wise to get in front of the story, announcing the positive test and answering reporters’ questions. “What we’ve seen athletes do is try to hide when these things come up. It creates more questions, and extends the time for her to rehabilitate her image,” says Gordon, who runs the Group Gordon corporate and crisis PR firm. “She served an ace from the start…When athletes shy away from questions, they look defensive and hurt themselves even more in the long run.”
Eight athletes have tested positive for meldonium since it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list on Jan. 1 because of suspicions that athletes were using it to improve endurance and aerobic capacity. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for use in the United States.
Her positive test came on Jan. 26, the day she lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
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