The Maria Sharapova brand vs. the Harvard Business School brand
Coinciding with the warm up to Wimbledon that will miss her fighting spirit and femininity this year and perhaps forever, Maria Sharapova tweeted that she’s going to Harvard.
She seems surprised to be going to Harvard, but not in the unpleasant way that she was surprised when she was handed a two-year suspension for taking meldonium, the banned substance that sounds like a by-product of a Russian nuclear submarine.
Maria Sharapova is giddily surprised, as if she sat down and found Dory.
Most people who are about to go to Harvard Business School are thrilled, but it’s not an experience that sneaks up on them. If you ask Google How do I get into Harvard Business School? you’ll discover that…
- In 2016 HBS rejected close to 90% of applicants.
- A 3.67 undergraduate grade point average and 730 score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (95th percentile) are general benchmarks.
- HBS likes people whose life stories would make good TED talks, and loves the three M’s–Mormons, Military and McKinsey.
Could Maria be a 4th M?
Sadly, it’s been confirmed that Maria Sharapova was not admitted into Harvard Business School to use her two-year hiatus to pursue an MBA, but is taking a two-week course for which the only prerequisite is a lot of money. Jezebel pilloried Tyra Banks for playing up her Harvard certificate too much, making it appear as if she has a coveted Harvard MBA, but who can blame her or Maria Sharapova for craving an elite association with HBS?
Maria Sharapova is what is known as a brand immigrant, someone who doesn’t exactly belong to the clique but is happy to sit by the Harvard sign. Brand tourists on the other hand, are people who admire a brand without any pretense of membership. In a Harvard study of luxury brands, Harvard itself was the research topic. Researchers found that Harvard students appeared more welcoming toward brand tourists than brand immigrants. They preferred summer students who maintained a respectful distance between themselves and the Harvard brand.
Harvard students appeared more welcoming toward summer students who maintained a respectful distance between themselves and the Harvard brand.
It’s likely that the full-time Harvard students in the study would have made an exception for brand immigrant Maria Sharapova who comes to summer school with five Grand Slams, star power and her own considerable, albeit somewhat tarnished, brand.
Perhaps Ms Sharapova feels she needs to sharpen her business skills at Harvard this summer because, after holding the title of highest-paid female athlete for eleven consecutive years, she has slipped from #1 to #2 in Forbes’ ranking. Her $21.9 million in earnings is second to arch-rival Serena Williams’ who is in first place with $28.9 million in prize money and endorsements. Perhaps Sharapova’s Harvard placement means that she has mentally shifted to the second phase of her career, that of Sugarpova entrepreneur.
Sugarpova is Sharapova’s gummy-chocolate-clothing company, the brainchild of candyman Jeff Rubin. A few years ago, Maria Sharapova considered temporarily changing her last name to Sugarpova for the 2013 US Open, but thankfully didn’t as the name Maria Sugarpova would have rendered her legion of male fans hyperglycemic.
Speaking of hyperglycemia…
I find sporting celebrity endorsements of unhealthy foods such as sweets and soft drinks reprehensible. ~ Professor Tom Sanders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences at King’s College London
In an era of ever-expanding obesity, Sharapova has been criticized for her association with a product that has 21 grams of sugar per serving and for her talking point that as a child she always looked forward to candy as a reward after a good tennis practice. Maria Sharapova is known for her mental toughness, her power game and her 110-decibel screech. Cutesy candy lady is a strange choice for Sharapova’s first foray in to entrepreneurism as she doesn’t appear at first glance to be a candy connoisseur, although at six times the price of the market leader, Sharapova has cornered the luxury gummy market that consists of only Sugarpova.
Sugarpova has sold over five million bags of gummy candy, and it’s not hard to figure out how. The branding is clean, colourful and fun.
Have tried for two days, but even though there is video evidence of Maria Sharapova putting a Silly Sour gummy worm in her mouth and appearing to eat it, I can’t imagine dummies wiggling their way into her heart and becoming a passion. Maria Sharapova is the human gummy of industrial sweetness who will assume whatever shape the situation requires. She doesn’t need Harvard’s help with branding and in fact could teach the school a thing or two about navigating a brand through a crisis, but Harvard may be able to help her decide which of her other passions should be the next target of the Sugarpova brand. Athleisure clothing that grunts when you’ve been inactive for too long, ringtones that scare everyone within a 100-yard radius and sports supplements beyond detection would be logical choices, but you never know with Maria Sharapova.
If everyone is wearing black, I want to be wearing red. I’m not the next anything. I’m the first Maria Sharapova.
About the Author: Who cares about the author when you can find out how gummies are made! (skip to 1:57 if you don’t care about red liquorice.)
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