February 23, 2024

Advertising: Watch as She Gracefully Knocks the Fuzz Off the Tennis Ball

A NEW commercial for the Women’s Tennis Association opens with slow-motion film of top players hitting ground strokes while wearing billowy dresses and scarves.

“What are little girls made of?” asks a voiceover in the commercial, which was shot indoors using a high-definition digital camera. “They’re made of sugar and spice.” Then, as top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps, hits an overhead smash, she continues, “And sweat. And fury. And grit. And strength. That’s what little girls are made of.”

The commercial, by Goodby, Silverstein Partners, part of the Omnicon Group, closes with the tagline for the campaign: “Strong is beautiful.”

The film, and photographs for print ads, are by the filmmaker and photographer Dewey Nicks, who used effects like smoke machines and tennis balls coated with clay dust and glitter that explode off balls when struck.

Other slow-motion spots focus on individual players, like Ana Ivanovic, a Serbian currently ranked No. 22, who in a 30-second spot hits a single forehand while an off-screen fan blows back her long hair and a shawl.

“During the war in Serbia, they bombed us all day and all night,” she says in Serbian, with English subtitles. “But if I got up early enough, I could practice before the planes came.”

In another spot Na Li, the Chinese player who is ranked No. 6, hits a two-handed backhand while the subtitles translate her voiceover. “China is a country of 1.3 billion people,” she says. “Yet we’ve never had a No. 1 player or Grand Slam champion. No pressure.”

While Serena Williams and Venus Williams may be the best-known players in the United States and beyond, currently Serena is sidelined with health problems and is ranked at No. 17; injuries have led to Venus’s ranking falling to No. 19. Earlier this month, for the first time since the inception of computer rankings nearly 40 years ago, no male or female player from the United States was ranked in the top 10.

“This is a global sport and this is about celebrating our next generation of stars,” said Stacey Allaster , chief executive of the W.T.A.

She said the campaign aimed to convert “peripheral fans” who watch only a couple of major tournaments into diehards who follow the entire women’s tennis tour, which includes more than 50 events.

Having players talk about their backgrounds, aspirations and drive will hook fans, Ms. Allaster said.

“Whether for a film star or a musician or an athlete, it all comes back to wanting to have an emotional connection to those performers we’re inspired by,” Ms. Allaster said. “We think creating this more emotional connection will be able to engage fans.”

Joe Favorito, a consultant who teaches sports marketing courses at Columbia University, liked that approach.

“In this day and age, whether it’s a male athlete or a female athlete, you have to sell every piece of a personality to be successful,” said Mr. Favorito, who worked for the W.T.A. in the 1990s.


The campaign grew out of a cover assignment for an August 2010 issue of The New York Times Magazine, when Mr. Nicks was asked to photograph players and to film them for an online feature.

Mr. Nicks said his goal was to show the dancelike fluidity of the players, and that the theatrical lighting and neutral backdrops — on indoor courts for the original assignment, and in a hospitality tent at a tournament for the advertising campaign — helped to accentuate that.

“It fell into this really interesting theatrical exploration of the action and their bodies,” Mr. Nicks said. “Taking it out of the outdoor situation and the sports lighting put it much more into the realm of ballet.”

While dressing players in stylish clothing with their hair down may seem like trying to make them glamorous, Mr. Nicks said “it was always more about showing how the body was twisting and turning and moving through space.”

Video shot for the campaign is in the same style as the film Mr. Nicks did for the magazine last year, and because the rights to that film have reverted back to him, some of it is being reused for the advertising campaign.

Stefan Copiz, the creative director for the campaign from Goodby, Silverstein Partners, said that the “Strong is beautiful” tagline is not meant to convey that the players are beautiful in a conventional sense, but rather to challenge conventional notions about beauty. The commercial that subverts the “sugar and spice” nursery rhyme line “serves as a manifesto” for the campaign, Mr. Copiz said.

“The duality we picked up on in women’s tennis is on the one hand they are tremendous athletes who have tremendous strength and power,” said Mr. Copiz. “But on the other hand they do it with such grace — the grace of ballerinas — and such beauty.”


The W.T.A. traces its roots to 1970, when Billie Jean King and eight other players signed contracts with Gladys Heldman, then the publisher of World Tennis magazine, and the tobacco company Philip Morris to compete in the newly formed Virginia Slims Series. In 1973, Ms. King formed the Women’s Tennis Association.

In 2005, Sony Ericsson became the tour’s title sponsor, in an $88 million, six-year deal, which the company extended for another two years in 2010.

Ms. Allaster, the chief executive, declined to reveal how much the new campaign cost to produce, and said that spending on placing ads was unknowable. Her organization will make the campaign available to individual tournament organizers in 33 countries, who then will decide whether to pay to place the ads.

But she said that women’s tennis was thriving financially, and that the organization would soon announce two multimillion-dollar sponsorships.

“The global economy has gone backwards and women’s tennis has gone forwards,” Ms. Allaster said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5c2e820cb34920ffe7ca70c1504bc20b

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