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Exclusive: Serena Williams talks about her new tech-infused Gatorade ad

The tennis legend talks about creating good ads, why she’s pitching Gatorade, and what makes a successful brand partnership.

Exclusive: Serena Williams talks about her new tech-infused Gatorade ad

Back in late 2015, Gatorade was developing a new system of products to help athletes evaluate, measure, and replace the types of electrolytes their bodies need most. Measurement was done by a bandage-like patch that monitors sweat rate and type, while a variety of small pods that differed in electrolyte type could be mixed with water in specially designed sport bottles. All this was designed to give athletes the best possible advantage through the most efficient hydration.

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Now three years later, Serena Williams is rocking the patch and pod combo in a new ad campaign called “You Fuel Us, We Fuel You.”

Williams, who stars alongside Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, says she’s been intrigued by the patch ever since Gatorade first told her about it. “I’ve always been really interested in innovation and technology, so when they first told me about the idea, I thought, ‘My god, if we could really harness the information about our sweat, how it influences our energy, what electrolytes we need exactly to improve performance, it would be crazy,'” says Williams. “Innovation like this is part of the reason athletes like myself can have such long careers.”

Over the last few years, Williams has been featured in perhaps the best advertising Gatorade has ever done. From 2015’s amazing throwback “Unmatched” to 2017’s “Match Point,” (the first-ever video game within Snapchat), or this year’s “Sisters in Sweat” and “Like a Mother,” Williams’s work with the brand has spanned from sport-driven to the very personal. She says she’s always had a collaborative relationship with the brand when it comes to the creative work.

“Sometimes you have the opportunity to see the creative ideas at the beginning of the process, and have more of a say,” says Williams. “Other times, these amazing creative agencies come up with great work. But we do talk about it, I can make suggestions and have ideas of how something might be more authentic to me, so it’s really more of a collaboration.”

In a world where celebrity endorsement transparency is vital (hello, Wonder Woman!), one thing Williams says is key to a truly successful brand relationship is that it is steeped in reality. “It has to be real to me. It has to speak to me and be able to work in real life,” she says. “When I’m looking at different products and companies, it has to be authentic. I’ve been using Gatorade for as long as I can remember. It’s not something I’m doing for more exposure. It’s about that real connection I have to the product. When things aren’t real, people can see right through that.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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