Thu May 12 10:40am EDT
When I first heard the tagline for the WTA's new advertising campaign it sounded bland and uninspired. "Strong is beautiful" didn't conjure up any new ideas about women's tennis. The delicate balance between strength and femininity has always been at the core of the tour. (How can you market Chris Evert's All-American good looks while also trumpeting the fact that she's one of the greatest athletes in the world? It's harder than it sounds.) Plus, "strong is beautiful" sounded too much like Andre Agassi's overused "image is everything" tag.
Then I watched all of the 30-second commercials for the new campaign and happily helped myself to a plate of crow. They're spectacular.
If the videos look familiar it's because some of them are the same clips used in a web feature last August by The New York Times Magazine. Filmmaker Dewey Nicks shot the film as part of a cover assignment for the mag. It was such a success that the WTA and advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners commissioned Nicks for this new campaign, which will be unveiled in 80 countries on 11 platforms over the next two years. Since the rights for the August shoot had reverted back to Nicks, a few of the same slow motion videos were used.
The video clips steal the show but the writing is just as deft. There's a fine line between poignancy and cheesiness. Starting a clip with "little girls are made of sugar and spice" is going to lead to a trite conclusion nine times out of ten. Somehow these commercials avoid that. Consider the Ana Ivanovic spot. Written the wrong way, her voiceover about the war in Serbia could have come off as heavy-handed manipulation.
The Williams sisters are conspicuous in their absence from the photo array seen above and the WTA's photo gallery of the 34 individual print ads though Serena is featured prominently in both 30-second commercials. The tour plans to add shots of more players, including Serena and Maria Sharapova, soon.
It may not be a bad thing to keep Serena and Venus on the sideline for the first few months of the campaign. They're not going to be around forever. Heck, they're barely around today. Enjoy the time the Williams sisters still have but plan for the void that will exist when they aren't.