Nike Didn't Need Much for Its Powerful Tribute to Serena Williams

It Only Takes a Few Words to Convey her Remarkable Story

By Ann-Christine Diaz. Published on Sep 01, 2016

Editor's Pick

At the U.S. Open this year, sports fans are waiting with baited breath to see if Serena Williams will break a major record and claim her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. Such a win would pull her out of her tie with Steffi Graf for most Major wins in the Open Era of any tennis player, male or female,

But whether she wins or not, she's already cited by many to be the greatest female tennis player of all time -- and in the case of Nike's latest "Unlimited" ad, perhaps the greatest athlete period.

Created out of Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, the poignant, understated spot leverages little more than words and music to assert this point. Against a plain backdrop that provides only hints of Williams herself, it delivers simple words and phrases one by one: Compton, sister, outsider, pro, #304, winner, top 10, Paris, London, New York, Melbourne, #1, injured, struggling, #160, done, comeback, focused, #1, legend, greatest female athlete ever, greatest athlete ever, Just do it.

Enhanced by a spare piano track that crescendoes with each word, the ad tells a powerful story of Williams dramatic rise, and then fall and then rise again to become the legend she is today.

For those not fully versed on Williams' career, Nike provided the following 101 explaining the words in the ad:

Compton: Serena Williams swung her first racket at the age of three in Compton, California, soon after her family moved from Michigan.

Sister, Outsider: Along with her sister [Venus], Williams proved that precocious talent always trumps preconceptions.

Pro: Williams turned pro in 1995, when she was 14.

#304: Two years later, with a ranking of 304, she beat two top-ten opponents and became the lowest-ranked player in history to achieve this feat.

Winner: In 1999, she claimed her first slam and rose to number four.

Top 10: The following two years, for the first time, she ranked in top 10.

Paris, London, New York: In 2002, Williams took Paris, London and New York -- plus the number one ranking.

Melbourne: A 2003 victory in Melbourne solidified her first "Serena Slam."

Injured: Injury briefly derailed William's game but never her drive. She dropped to number 139 in 2006, struggled with confidence and critics labeled her obsolete.

Struggling: Williams responded by winning Melbourne in 2007, as an unseeded player, completing the year among the sport's top ten.

#169: After another bout of injury she declined to 169, but quickly battled back and resumed her ascent

Done, Comeback, Focused: In 2013, she became the oldest player ever to earn the rank of number one.

#1: Williams held the top spot through 2014 -- the second woman to retain it for a full year -- and took her sixth title in New York.

Legend: Today, she is revered as the greatest and her influence transcends the game of tennis.

Nike's just the latest advertiser to celebrate Williams. Gatorade also debuted a Snapchat game in which users become an 8-bit Serena, featuring 22 levels to reflect her major wins, and possible a 23rd, should she take home another trophy this year.

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Sep 01, 2016
Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Director:
Alberto Ponte
Interactive Director:
Dan Viens
Tim Arts
Stefan Van Den Boogaard
Brandon Pierce
Mike Warzin
Executive Producer:
Matt Hunnicutt
Julie Gursha
Production Assistant:
Gabrielle Chappel
Business Affairs Manager:
Alicia Willett
Agency Studio Artist:
Matt Blum
Agency Studio Artist:
Michael Rosenau
Agency Studio Artist:
Christy Zilka
Agency Studio Artist:
Randall Garcia
Project Management:
Jordan Schroeder
Project Management:
Shannon Hutchinson
Account Team:
Alyssa Ramsey
Account Team:
Luiza Prata Carvalho
Account Team:
Shinya Kamata
Account Team:
Simone Jackson
Editorial Company:
Eric Hill
Assistant Editor:
Kevin Alfoldy
Post Executive Producer:
Leslie Carthy
VFX Company:
Flame Lead:
Pilon Lectez
Flame Artist:
David Jahns
Post Executive Producer:
Alex Thiesen
Music and Sound:
Human Worldwide
Jonathan Sanford
Mix Company:
Noah Woodburn
Sarah Fink

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