Article by - Elaine Wong / BRANDWEEK
Nearly a week after her outburst at the U.S. Open, tennis star Serena Williams has scored an endorsement deal with Procter & Gamble's Tampax brand. The company, which sells Pampers, diapers and Tide detergent, is running print and online ads featuring the world’s No. 2 women’s tennis player in a campaign for Tampax. The effort, via Leo Burnett, Digitas and Starcom Mediavest Group, is a continuation of the brand’s “Outsmart Mother Nature” campaign, which shows a pesky character, Mother Nature, attempting to deliver women their monthly periods (in the form of a red ribbon-topped gift box). Print ads feature the athlete beating Mother Nature in a game of tennis and hit newsstands this week, primarily in teen titles like Teen Vogue.
Tampax, which spent $30 million in measured media last year, excluding online, per Nielsen, will also begin running videos with Serena Williams on its site. The videos, which are part of a series, depict Williams in sticky situations with Mother Nature. The tennis star, however, is “unstoppable and prepared, like our Tampax girl,” said Courtney Schuster, associate brand manager for Tampax. "[Williams] doesn’t let Mother Nature get the best of her." Williams landed the gig with Tampax despite the incident at last week's U.S. Open, when the star shouted a series of profanities at a line coach and was disqualified. Williams has since apologized for her behavior, though she maintains she won’t change who she is despite her actions. Experts predicted no sports sponsorship dangers for Williams, and advertisers Kraft and Nike have publicly stated their support. Tampax’s choice of Williams as spokesperson—a first for the brand and unusual for a category like fem care—seems to affirm that. “This is really huge for us . . . We haven’t seen [competitors in our category] do this. She stands for so much and she is much bigger than sports and tennis,” Schuster said.
Like Kraft and Nike, Schuster agreed that Williams “made a mistake, apologized for her actions and that’s really the most we can ask of anyone. We really support her and continue to partner with her,” she said of the sponsorship agreement, which extends into next year. (P&G did not disclose the cost of the effort.)William Sutton, professor and associate director of the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program, said Tampax’s pick of Williams as spokesperson should likely do no harm. “She’s bigger than the incident itself. She’s at the pinnacle of her sport. When she doesn’t play, people don’t watch,” Sutton said.Per TNS Media Intelligence, Tampax spent $16 million on Internet and $10 million on magazine advertising through June of this year.