Candies have been a staple of Maria Sharapova’s life ever since she moved to the United States in the mid-1990s. The Russian native would reward herself with a sweet treat after a solid tennis practice session or a good day at school.
And for the last three years, the world’s most marketable female athlete has been, in turn, giving fans the opportunity to do the same.
Sharapova launched her premium candy collection, Sugarpova, around the 2012 U.S. Open and since then, has grown her start-up company into a full-fledged business and a natural extension of her brand.
“The way that Sugarpova has been embraced around the world is nothing short of thrilling for me,” Sharapova said to Forbes via email. “From day one, shoppers have loved the candy and its packaging.”
Sugarpova has a new retail relationship with Bloomingdale’s in NYC. The pop-up store will live there for the duration of the U.S. Open, Aug. 22 – Sept. 14 (Courtesy of Maria Sharapova).
The candy brand will celebrate its third anniversary this month, expanding into 32 countries — including Vietnam, Lebanon and UAE — and is now partnering with 23 global distributors.
“What she is doing with Sugarpova is pretty amazing,” said long-time tennis agent, Max Eisenbud. “She’s positioning herself to build this into a lifestyle brand. …It’s really fun and exciting for me to just be along for the ride.”
Eisenbud still vividly remembers traveling to Spain a few years ago to seek out a gummy manufacturer that Sharapova had particular interest in. At this point, Eisenbud’s role of a sports agent quickly broadened into being the Chief Executive Officer for Sugarpova.
From the Summer of 2012 until the beginning of this year, Eisenbud and Sharapova’s public relations team were handling the day-to-day operations, branding and strategy behind furthering the company’s presence in the premium candy category. According to Eisenbud, he had taken Sugarpova as far as he could.
(Courtesy of Maria Sharapova).
“I said, ‘If we’re going to be real, we need to get real experts and look at companies who do that,’ ”Eisenbud remembers telling Sharapova.
Earlier this year, Sharapova and her team hired New York-based Marvin Traub Associates to completely take over operational and brand oversight. It’s a move that has provided positive dividends for Sugarpova — it has sold five million bags to date and experienced 50% growth this year. In May 2016, Sugarpova will launch a line of gourmet chocolates at the Sweets and Snacks Expo held annually in Chicago.
“We have grown through innovation, great taste and high quality that keeps our consumers coming back and our retail presence growing,” Sharapova said. “…This month Sugarpova is being featured in OTG Airport stores where travelers from around the world are being introduced to our candy as the quintessential travel snack.”
Mark works in Talent Marketing at Atlanta-based sports and entertainment marketing agency, CSE. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkJBurns88. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.