“If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?” an unseen interviewer asks a young gap-toothed Serena Williams. The Gatorade commercial then goes on to document the prodigy’s spectacular career, its breathtaking triumphs and heartbreaking defeats and, mostly, the grace with which she has handled being one of the most celebrated–and criticized– athletes in American history.
The commercial returns to a beaming Williams, who finally responds;
“Well, I’d kind of like everybody to be like me.”
It is a glorious answer, and the capstone to a transcendent career. In the world of brand marketing, there has never been anyone quite like Serena Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slams, who has sold everything from Gatorade to sports apparel, automobiles to dating apps.
With her sculpted physique, hardscrabble beginnings in Compton, California, and megawatt charisma, Serena’s brand is an amalgam of IIverson and LeBron, with just a twist of Michelle Obama for good measure. And in a career that spans nearly a generation, she has proven to be a marketing juggernaut. Adweek Magazine dubbed her a Brand Genius, and named her the Brand Visionary of the Year in 2018.
“If the part of Wonder Woman had not already been cast,” the fashion designer Anna Wintour said in 2017, “ I would suggest Serena take the role.”
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