Icon’s ‘savage’ Sharapova takedown
Aussie icon Vegemite has stumbled into the murky territory of actively sledging Maria Sharapova in the wake of her controversial exit from the Australian Open.
Jumping on as an official tournament sponsor as well as a personal sponsor of Aussie star Ash Barty, Vegemite has gone all out with its advertising campaigns around Melbourne Park since the start of the year's first grand slam.
As well signage around Melbourne Park and its branding with Barty's cheer squad, Vegemite's marketing campaign has also included billboards around Melbourne.
A decision to take a cheeky pot-shot at Sharapova is now fuelling debate on social media about an official sponsor actively sledging one of the tournament's biggest stars.
One billboard spotted in Melbourne showed Vegemite trumpeting their product as tasting like: "Quiet, please Maria".
The New York Times' tennis expert Ben Rothenberg led the questioning surrounding the marketing strategy.
It came after Sharapova's distinctive shrieking grunts became one of the big talking points to emerge from her fourth round loss to Aussie Barty.
Tastes like: a Barty Party at Melbourne Park 🎉 Grab your #VEGEMITEAussie Pack & join the #BartyArmy as we cheer on @ashbar96 👏🎾🇦🇺Available exclusively at the @AustralianOpen & our #MiteyMerch store: https://t.co/8sa6ns2w0z #AusOpen #VEGEMITEBallkids #BartyParty pic.twitter.com/HjVNk14hXz— Vegemite (@Vegemite) January 21, 2019
Sharapova was eventually booed out of the Open, where the Melbourne Crowd turned on her for taking a seven minute bathroom break following Barty's taking of the first set.
Before Sharapova was put on a collision course with Barty, the same billboard was much more Sharapova friendly.
Unfortunately, the Russian's threat to Barty's charge to the quarterfinals clearly irked Aussie tennis commentators.
The Australian's Will Swanton earlier this week described Sharapova's screams as "appalling".
"Sharapova's Cold Chisel-scale screaming gets louder, and lasts longer, the more desperate her situation," Swanton wrote.
"There's times when Sharapova is still hollering when Barty hits a shot. It's an all-too-obvious bid to distract an opponent. It's appalling and, thankfully, it doesn't work."
The Herald Sun's Leo Schlink also lamented the WTA Tour's failure to stamp out excessive grunting as former chairman Stacey Allastera attempted to do six years ago when she declared war on the grunting controversy.
"Tennis devotees - those at Melbourne Park and elsewhere - detest the habit," Schlink wrote in a report of Barty's big fourth round win.
"One spectator brandished a sign during the warm-up which read: "Quiet please, Sharapova. Barty is ready to play."
"It made no difference to Sharapova, wailing on virtually every stroke in every rally."
Vegemite wasn't the only company making things uncomfortable for their client this week at the Australian Open.
Finalist Naomi Osaka on Thursday scolded her own sponsor Nissin for producing a cartoon advertisement which pictured the tennis star in "whitewashed" skin.
The company has since apologised and ceased the campaign surrounding the cartoon.
"Like, I've talked to them. They've apologized," Osaka said after her semi-final win.
"For me, it's obvious, I'm tan. It's pretty obvious. I don't think they did it on purpose to be, like, whitewashing or anything. But I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it."