Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam winner, revered as one of the greatest athletes of all time, announced her retirement on Tuesday.
Serena Williams retires—a look back at her ad legacy
As a star athlete since her childhood, Williams has been featured in ads for many brands over the years, including Nike, Gatorade and Michelob Ultra. As an advocate for gender equality, she has also been the subject of many campaigns that show her resilience post-motherhood. Keep reading to see some of Williams’ ads, beginning with those still airing now.
Cash App hopes connected TV broadens its reach starting with an ad starring Serena Williams - August 2022
The payment service's 15-second spot shows Williams as she comes home from a night out and uses Cash App to pay her babysitter. The ad aims to show how the app allows people to “move assets effortlessly between people, places and experiences,” said Catherine Ferdon, Cash App’s head of marketing and brands.
Just Egg partners with Serena Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal on a campaign - May 2022
The brand, known for creating more sustainable food, launched an ad in which Williams could be seen eating a perfectly plated Just Egg breakfast sandwich.
“Serena Williams is an inspiration on and off the court and it has been a thrill and honor to partner with her on our latest Just Egg campaign and welcome her as an investor,” the brand said in a statement Tuesday. “Her athletic, philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors are unparalleled, and we look forward to seeing what she accomplishes next. She’ll always be the GOAT to us.”
Williams–feared for years on the tennis court–is equally intimidating at the bowling alley. That was the premise of a Michelob Ultra Super Bowl ad, which assembled six sports stars at the so-called Superior Bowl where they take their competitive fire to an unlikely venue.
The pro athlete dons the Amazon hero’s red, blue and gold costume and engages in a fierce racket battle with tennis-ball-spewing robots in a blockbuster spot for DirecTV. (Fellow tennis great John McEnroe also makes a cameo, in a less valorous role.)
The sandwich chain used the backing of superstar athletes, including Williams, hyping Subway’s major overhaul in a series of ads that seemingly never end. The campaign also starred Tom Brady, Stephen Curry and Megan Rapinoe and represented one of Subway’s largest media investments to date, if not its biggest ever.
Watch Michelob Ultra's Super Bowl ad with Serena Williams, Anthony Davis and other sports stars - January 2021
Michelob Ultra secured several A-list athletes for its 2021 Super Bowl ad. But instead of showing them in action on the court or field, the brew put the spotlight on what they do in their downtime.
The ad from Wieden+Kennedy New York includes a scene of Williams dancing and singing karaoke with her girlfriends, while pro golfer Brooks Koepka is shown at a pizza party and hoops star Anthony Davis appears playing chess with his dad.
To mark the start of the U.S. Open, Nike released a highly emotional spot featuring Williams and her sister Venus. The ad, “You Can’t Stop Sisters,” appeared on the stars’ Instagram channels. It focuses on how the media has always played up the competition between the two siblings but suggests an alternative narrative: that both were furthering the causes of women’s sport and racial equality.
Procter & Gamble Co.’s Secret signed a deal with Williams around the brand’s gender equality work, putting an additional $1 million behind an effort to which the brand donated $1 million in the prior year.
Williams appeared in ads for Secret’s “All Strength No Sweat” campaign.
The spot, narrated by Williams, is called “Dream Crazier.” In the clip, Williams speaks about the head-shaking dismissiveness female athletes regularly endure–many of those who have broken barriers in sports have been called “crazy.”
Williams tells her story of how making the first move resulted in her being where she is today in Bumble’s first Super Bowl commercial.
The 30-second spot, titled “The Ball is in Her Court,” shows Williams as a young girl making the first move to join a tennis competition.
As Williams took to the court again for the U.S. Open after becoming a mother to baby Olympia, the media not only reported about her successful start at the tournament–but also her distinctive fashion choices. The myriad aspects of her persona were on full display in a new music video-style ad from Beats by Dre, which portrayed her as the “Queen of Queens” alongside Nicki Minaj.
A spot for Nike from Wieden+Kennedy seamlessly merged archival footage of a young Williams and her father on courts with scenes of the adult Williams in action. “Be tough, just like you want to win,” says Richard Williams in a voiceover. “Just like you’re at the U.S. Open.”
Williams’ return to tennis after giving birth was great fodder for the brands that she’s associated with. Chase got in on the act with a spot airing ahead of the U.S. Open, in which she recites the lyrics of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” as she puts baby Olympia to bed and heads out to the court.
Gatorade paid tribute to Williams’ fight back to the top of women’s tennis 10 months after motherhood in its ad, narrated by Williams’ own mother.
Oracene Price’s voice describes how Williams “sacrificed”, “pushed through the pain” and “gave 100% without any sleep” like a mother, and more, to footage of Williams training for her latest Wimbledon final.
The Ford-owned luxury brand added Williams to its roster, just as the new mother hit the court again.
“She’s a new mom, she’s an entrepreneur. There are all these qualities about her and her life that match so well that the audience we are trying to talk to on Navigator,” John Emmert, group marketing manager for the Lincoln Motor Co., said at the time.
The Gatorade ad appeared to show the tennis star cradling her nearly three-month-old baby. The digital spot, aimed at encouraging girls to stay in sports, would have marked an exceptionally early acting debut for young Alexis Olympia, if it actually included her. But it turns out that the brand had to arrange for her baby body double at the last minute.
Chase promoted its Chase QuickPay–technology that allows customers to send and receive money in real-time–with a spot in which Williams and Steph Curry went head to head in an epic game of ping pong.
Gatorade’s Serena Williams Snapchat ad-game scoring well with users - September 2016
Gatorade’s ad, which turns into a Nintendo-style video game, was a hit on Snapchat, where about 35% of people who see the game shared it with friends, according to Kenny Mitchell, the then-head of consumer engagement at Gatorade.
The ad featured Williams, in video game form, and let the user play a tennis match with her character.
Nike didn’t need much for its powerful tribute to Serena Williams - September 2016
Williams is cited by many to be the greatest female tennis player of all time–and in the case of Nike’s “Unlimited” ad, perhaps the greatest athlete period.
Enhanced by a spare piano track that crescendoes with each word, the ad tells a powerful story of Williams' dramatic rise, and then fall and then rise again to become the legend she is today.
Just minutes after Williams won Wimbledon and secured a historic 22nd Grand Slam title (tying only with Steffi Graf), Nike released this inspiring film capturing the intensity of the pro tennis player’s dedication to her sport.
Created and produced out of Dirty Robber, the spot featured a surprisingly candid voiceover from Williams.
Watch Serena Williams grow up in Gatorade’s U.S. open ad - September 2015
Gatorade featured real footage that showed her journey all the way from young girl to superstar. The ad, by TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A., starts with an interview in which she is asked “If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?”
What can you do? Can you run a mile? Can you dance? Can you fight? Nike says well, that’s not good enough in “Possibilities,” a spot from Wieden+Kennedy that included Williams and celebrated 25 years of the sport giant’s famous “Just Do It” tagline.
The ad also included appearances from LeBron James, soccer star Gerard Pique and boxer Andre Ward.
Contributing: Ad Age Staff