Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer and Porsche have dropped sponsorship deals with Maria Sharapova after the Russian tennis star said she had failed a drug test. As Ivor Bennett reports, it follows a similar decision by Nike.
For Nike's executives, it must be like one of those recurring nightmares. Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and now Maria Sharapova - one disgraced ambassador after another. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MARIA SHARAPOVA SAYING: "A few days ago I received a letter from the ITF that I had failed a drug test at the Australian Open." Such scandals have clearly honed the company's crisis management though. Despite her being one of their star assets, ties were suspended within hours of her confession. Tag Heuer and Porsche have quickly followed suit. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT HAIGH, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, BRAND FINANCE, SAYING: "I think that's the most sensible strategy. Because these stories have a habit of developing and unfolding over a long period of time and becoming rapidly worse." But Maria Sharapova is not just any athlete. Tie-ups - which also include Evian and Avon - helped make her the highest paid female athlete in the world last year. Earning 29 million dollars despite not winning a grand slam. Such is the power of her brand that a start-up candy line she launched in 2012 is now sold in over 30 countries. But for the sponsors, a scandal can sour any deal, however sweet. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT HAIGH, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, BRAND FINANCE, SAYING: "I think they're probably beginning to reconsider the celebrity endorsement strategy altogether. The risk is so much higher now. There are camera phones everywhere, there's an email trail .So the risk of heroic figures being unmasked for the potentially normal human beings that they are is so much higher. It may not be game over just yet though for Sharapova and her sponsors. Tiger Woods was signed up by Rolex after being dropped by Tag Heuer over his infidelity scandal. And Martina Hingis is now a Global Ambassador for the International Tennis Hall of Fame despite a positive drugs test in 2007.