The typical path of the superstar athlete turned product endorser is to land some choice deals and appear in ads that work hard to offend no one and try hard (sometimes too hard) to make people laugh. The bond between the brand and the athlete is temporary and born of convenience; there’s no true alignment. But the path of Serena Williams is not typical. The legendary tennis champion has associated herself with brands that, like her, are unafraid to go there.
In the “Queen of Queens” commercial for Beats that aired during this year’s U.S. Open, she asserts that women don’t have to choose among motherhood, a brilliant career and so-called femininity. When officials at the French Open this past summer banned the catsuit she wore to improve her blood circulation, Nike responded on her behalf with a pithy tweet: “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.” In 2015, JPMorgan Chase hosted a “Women on the Move” conversation with Williams moderated by Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts at its New York headquarters. The two discussed work-life balance, diversity and confidence.
Other athletes might boast bigger endorsement dollars, but Williams has earned something far more rare and enduring: respect.
Nike, the catsuit tweet
After the catsuit kerfuffle at the French Open in August, the sportswear brand said in one sharp tweet what the rest of the world was thinking.
Beats, ‘Queen of Queens’
A powerful ad declaring a woman’s right to choose her own destiny, gender expectations be damned. Produced by Radical Media, with a guest appearance by rapper Nicki Minaj. Aired during this year’s U.S. Open.
JPMorgan Chase, ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’
The international financial-services company leveraged its ongoing support of Williams in an ad contrasting her tenderness with baby Olympia and ferocity on the court. You can indeed have it all. Mama said so.
Gatorade, ‘Like a Mother’
Ten months after a life-threatening experience giving birth, Williams was competing at Wimbledon. How did she do it? She “found an extra gear. Like a mother,” says her mom, Oracene Price, in the voiceover to this gives-you-goosebumps spot.
Check out the rest of Adweek’s 2018 Brand Genius coverage:
- Adweek’s Brand Genius 2018: 10 Marketers Who Triumphed by Fearlessly Embracing Change
- How Serena Williams Became a Branding Tour de Force With Fierce Ambitions Far Beyond the Court
- How Losing a Race for Congress Inspired Girls Who Code’s Founder to Tackle the STEM Gender Gap
- When It Comes to Causes She Believes In, Serena Williams Is Not Here for the Status Quo