The GOAT – Why Serena Williams is the most marketable female athlete of 2022

Serena Williams, Tennis

SportsPro Media has released this year’s rankings for The 50 Most Marketable Athletes. Coming in at number two on the list is tennis superstar Serena Williams, who was outranked only by Cristiano Ronaldo.

As a female athlete and one in her 40s no less, being branded this year’s second most marketable athlete speaks volumes about sports audiences and the current climate.

So why is she so marketable?

Serena As a Personal Brand

Previous years have measured marketability by taking into account several factors. Among them has traditionally been an athlete’s ability to successfully represent a brand, a cause or a message. In other words, to function as a brand ambassador.

A common trend nowadays is the emergence of the athlete as their own brand. An athlete is expected to embody certain values, not just represent them.

Serena Williams is a prime example of having her personal brand work for her on and off the court. Although her outstanding performance as an athlete is what qualifies her as marketable, her defeats and struggles only add to her appeal. As audiences move toward a more holistic view of athletes, Serena’s transition to motherhood and then as the come-back queen has likely only widened her fan base.

Rather than being hailed or vilified as a reigning champion, she is allowed to vocalise the pressures that come with being a female athlete, giving her that most coveted of assets – authenticity.

The Rise of Female Athletes

Amongst her peers, Serena Williams is one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Naomi Osaka is ranked 6th on the list and Emily Raducanu comes in at 11th. Although female tennis players are still being outearned by their male counterparts, tennis boasts a smaller gender pay gap than most other professional sports.

According to a Time Magazine article from 2014: “Women tennis players earn more money, endorsements and TV face time than any other female athletes.”

The increase in exposure, media coverage and prize money given to female athletes in tennis is only one aspect of their growing marketability. They have shown they have the skills and determination to match, as is evident in the evolution of the game over the last few years. In 2014 Sabine Lisicki hit the fastest serve ever recorded in a game at 210.8km/hr.

Since then, Ajla Tomlajanovic and Alycia Parks have come close to equalling this speed – all within the last five years. Women’s tennis is getting better because female tennis players are. Serena Williams used to be the record-holder and is now following suit as female athletes continue to rise.

The GOAT Is Exactly That

At 41 years old, Serena Williams is by no means the youngest on a list of athletes, who tend to peak in their twenties. She does, however, count as one of the greatest of all time in her sport. She was ranked the world number one player for 319 weeks and has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles. She holds the record for most singles tennis matches won at the US Open (108) and most tennis Grand Slam singles matches won (367). She shares the record for most Olympic tennis gold medals won by an individual (four) with her sister, Venus.

These accolades don’t include her prize money records, Guinness World records, records for being the oldest number one ranked player or oldest Grand Slam finalist.

The point is – Serena has been the best at what she does for a long time and her achievements in the sport are unequivocal.

As much as marketing can be enhanced through social media, the ability to speak well in an interview, or simply getting behind a cause that has mass appeal – without the performance, the athlete would have nothing to market and Serena’s place at number two is without a doubt well deserved.

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