Let me just get this out of the way: I have a girl crush on Serena Williams.
Her badass physical and mental power catapulted her to her first French Open win in over 11 years and 16th overall Grand Slam title, only further cementing her place among the all-time tennis greats. As a fellow female athlete, this is more than enough to make me swoon. Her powerful, muscular physique is symbolic of the new wave of female athletes.
At, 31, Williams is playing possibly the best tennis of her career and even clocked her fastest ace at 120 mph – prompting her opponent, Maria Sharapova, to excuse herself by saying, “I think if I was built like Serena I hope I’d be able to hit a big serve like that, too.” The force of her serve is only one part of the enormous cultural power she holds as an iconic female athlete – she’s also avid social media user (Forbes even dubbed her one of their fifteen Social Media Overachievers).
The above photo from Sports Illustrated encapsulates the ecstasy, exhilaration and elation of winning as well as the sacrifices, frustration, and disappointments of past losses. Simply put, it is a beautiful and moving portrait of a lifetime of work captured and expressed in a singular moment in time. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
I hope the photo will go viral and help disabuse people of the notion that female athletes are too masculine or not worth watching. The awesome physical and emotional power displayed is inspiring. Social media allows us to not only record moments such as these, but comment on them and pass our thoughts along. It makes us less passive – we fancy ourselves participants, not observers.
With over 3 million Twitter followers, Williams has been steadily increasing the value of her social media stock. Her fandom has reached the point where she has instituted @Serena Friday, a separate Twitter account dedicated to a weekly Q & A session for followers wanting to inquire about her game, her personal life, and even pictures about her conversations with fellow competitors.
This weekly meet ‘n’ greet has helped her build a rapport with some of her most devoted Twitter followers and she acknowledges the benefits of social media: “I don’t know why I chose Friday, but it became a huge hit. That’s what I like about social media. I can connect directly with fans.” It’s this kind of engagement that is key to building and maintaining a relationship with fans and followers. Her successful upkeep of this relationship is now pretty crucial for her own brand management – especially as she is solidifying her status as a legendary player on and off the court.
According to Forbes, as of this month, Williams is among the world’s highest-paid athletes, reeling in over $45 million in career prize money and accruing endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, and Wilson. Apple has also taken notice of her star power, as she and her sister, Venus are a part of their iPhone 5 advertisement from earlier this year.
Internet marketing companies should take note of her widespread appeal on the tennis court and in the court of public opinion. (Her victory speech in French on center court should be a big plus from a marketing standpoint: she knows how to woo the locals. Her Parisian apartment and embrace of the French lifestyle doesn’t hurt, either.)
There’s no doubt Serena will have a lot to say during this week’s #SerenaFriday, as followers recap her recent win at Roland Garros. Williams shows no signs of slowing down physically, technologically or culturally – and doesn’t want to be disturbed anytime soon.