Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Maria Sharapova "Serves Up" A Problem For WTA Over Ad

So I click over to Maria Sharapova's and find this as the top story:

"I want all my fans to know that the WTA Tour is forcing me and several of the other top players to do a 4 hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. They want me to do this shoot on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday of the Rome tournament after flying 12 hours from LA. I have set my own personal rules when is comes to doing shoots and I never do shoots before tournaments because they are mentally draining and I want to just focus on my tennis. Now the WTA is telling me if I don't do this shoot they will fine me over $300,000. As you can see the WTA Tour loves to fine players. To be honest, I would love to do this and help promote the tour as much as possible, but to force me to do this shoot the day before a tier 1 tournament is just not right. I am interested in what my fans think I should do?"


So what's the deal here? Well, I couldn't get anything from Maria's agent Max Eisenbud, but this is what seems to be happening. The WTA has a rule that requires players that don't wear its sponsor patch (which includes Maria) to promote the tour once a year for whatever they want for five hours time.

If they don't do this, those players can be fined and the fines are quite high (in this case, we're told Sharapova's fine would be $700,000).

Sharapova's side of it is that this came out of nowhere and it's not fair. If I were to take her side, I'd say that, in this age of video editing, why does Maria have do anything in any location?

Unless it's Rome specific, which I'm sure it's not, why does it all have to happen at one time? You think when the NBA did the split LeBron/Garnett ads and the Kobe/Shaq ads, they were sitting in the same room?

Now to the WTA's side. I spoke with WTA spokesman Andrew Walker. Walker said that the players have always wanted more promotion so this, in the end, is part of what they always wanted. Furthermore, Walker says that this did not come out of nowhere and that the players were looped it at every step of the process.

The Rome location was chosen recently and the reason why the WTA is doing it all at one time with all the players is for budgetary reasons. Walker also said that although players like Sharapova have to give up to five hours of their time, in this case, the tour asked for only two to three hours, plus travel time.

It should be interesting to see what happens next. Sharapova has definitely turned up the heat. But one could argue that with this going down next week and with a good deal of money on the line, this was the best way to use her power.

Questions?  Comments?