Bloomberg: Sharapova Serves Sweet Ace With 120%
Return on Sugarpova
French Open champion Maria Sharapova is turning her sweet
tooth into a profitable business.She spent $500,000 to set up
Sugarpova, her own candy brand, and the 25-year-old from Russia may
more than double her money in the first year alone.
She introduces it today in Australia, where she'll be seeded
second when the tennis season's first major tournament starts in
The gummy candy was first marketed in the U.S. in August,
reaching 250,000 bags in the first three months, according
to Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's agent at IMG Tennis. He's
forecasting sales of 1 million bags in a year as distribution
starts in the U.K., Australia, Japan, Canada,
Russia, India and China. Sharapova, who gets as much as
$1.10 per bag, said she's surprised by the success.
"We don't really have a big budget at all for marketing and
advertisement," the four-time Grand Slam tournament winner said in
an interview. "So it's pretty incredible that the awareness that it
has so far is where it is."
Eisenbud said he spends about 60 percent of his time on
Sugarpova. The sales, he said, come from "Maria's star power."
"Every week, everywhere she goes, people are talking to her
about it," the agent said. "It's also the power of social media,
the power of her almost 9 million fans on Facebook."
While researching the candy market, Eisenbud and Sharapova came
to the conclusion that "there is no real brand recognition with
gummies," said Eisenbud, the candy brand's chief executive
$5.99 a Bag
The pair focused on producing a premium product -- which is made
in Spain -- and colorful packaging. A bag of Sugarpova sells for as
much as $5.99, or about six times the price of a bag of chewy
sweets made by Haribo GmbH, the Bonn, Germany-based market
"She's got an interesting niche positioning for herself, because
she has no competitors right now," Marcia Mogelonsky, director of
insight at market researcher Mintel Food & Drink, said in
an interview. "This is a part of the confectionery industry that
doesn't have a premium segment."
Still, Mogelonsky said, the product may struggle as consumers
become more conservative with their spending and the original
excitement of the brand wears off. Haribo, a closely held company
founded in 1920, produces 100 million gummy bears a day. A Haribo
spokesman was unavailable for comment.
"They might buy it once because it's a novelty item and they
want to keep the label, they might buy it once to try it, but it's
still a lot of money for most people," Mogelonsky said.
Sharapova shot to global fame and became the world's best- paid
female athlete when she won Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17. A U.S.
Open title followed in 2006 and an Australian Open in 2008, before
an injury sidelined her for nine months.
Last year, she became the 10th woman to capture all four major
tennis championships by winning the French Open. Her annual
earnings from prize money and endorsements with the likes
of Nike Inc., (NKE) Samsung Electronics Co. and Tiffany &
Co. are estimated at close to $28 million, according to
$28 Billion Market
"She's attractive, and she's well-spoken," said Mogelonsky, who
estimated the market for gummy candy in the U.S., Asia and Western
Europe to be $28 billion last year. "Those two things right away
help her. Sugarpova is a cute name. Even those who aren't focused
on tennis might find the name intriguing, the packaging intriguing,
and the flavors."
The problem Sugarpova faces is sustaining interest.
"If the candy is good, and if it catches and if she can keep
this going more than a year, it should be good." Mogelonsky
Although Sharapova has co-designed for Nike, Cole Haan and watch
brand Tag Heuer, her line of gummies with names such as Smitten
Sour, Quirky and Sporty is her first foray into business all by
Sharapova, who owns all of Sugarpova, said she "stressed for
about a week before it" when the line was introduced in New York in
August, just before the U.S. Open.
"I remember the day before, I was like, 'Oh, maybe this was not
a good idea, maybe we should have just started just small," she
Jeff Rubin, creator of the FAO Schweetz candy departments inside
FAO Schwarz toy stores, co-founder of Dylan's Candy Bar and a
Sugarpova consultant, said the tennis player is "very, very
involved" in the brand. Rubin's deal allows him to earn a
percentage of sales when profits hit certain thresholds.
"Her commitment is best exemplified by the fact that less than 24
hours after winning the French Open, she was doing final taste
tests at the factory in Europe," Rubin, who came up with the name
Sugarpova, said in an interview.
"I really wanted to do something on my own," Sharapova said,
adding she's learned a lot promoting other companies' products and
designing over the years.
"I have a big sweet tooth," Sharapova said. She'd always ask her
mother for a candy bar or a lollipop after a good practice when she
Eventually, the Sugarpova brand may expand into other products
after Sharapova retires from tennis.
"First and foremost, we're still getting our feet on the ground in
terms of the candy but eventually, I would definitely see it in
fashion, in cosmetics, in different passions of mine," Sharapova