Serena Williams forever changed how brands see female athletes
SERENA Williams’ US Open adventure is over, capping a glittering 27-year career that defined a new era of tennis and inspired sponsors to take female athletes more seriously.
Williams lost to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in 3 sets at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Friday (Sep 2), a day after she and her sister Venus exited the doubles competition after a first-round loss.
The sisters helped usher in a new era of sponsorships for female athletes over their decorated careers. Jeff Kearney, global head of sports marketing for Gatorade, said Serena has made a permanent impact on marketing budgets everywhere and her overwhelming success convinced the Pepsico division, which first partnered Williams in 2009, to spend more on female athletes.
“Across brands and the different companies she works with, they’re investing more on the women’s game,” said Kearney.
The sports icon has worked with a number of brands, beginning with a 5-year Puma sponsorship at the beginning of her career that was valued at US$13 million. A longstanding partnership with Nike followed in 2003, which has grown to include an in-house incubator for fashion designers. (The company has also dedicated the largest building on its Beaverton, Oregon, campus to her.) Delta Air Lines and JPMorgan Chase & Co have also been sponsors.
“The thing about Serena is she’s going to transcend sport,” said Tanya Hvizdak, the vice-president of global women’s sports marketing at Nike. “She’s been able to show it’s beyond performance. Obviously that’s provided her a platform, but her engagement in so many different other aspects and showing the dimensions of herself, whether it’s as a mother or a champion of diverse designers or other aspects, will be her legacy.”