Serena Williams takes her temper out in Tampax ads
Awkward timing on the part of Tampax? Or does the brand, which is owned by consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble (PG), have a reason for running the ads after Williams unleashed on the court?
Perhaps a little bit of both. Tampax's ad campaign was well in the works before Williams threatened to shove a ball down the line judge's throat. The print campaign, which will run in magazines including People and Teen Vogue in October, required a significant lead time in order to make it into next month's issues, says David Bernens, a spokesman for the brand.
After the outburst, executives at the company "reassessed" the campaign in light of Williams' outburst and decided to go ahead with the ads anyway, says Bernens. "We made sure Serena was aware we were going to move forward, but there was never any discussion between us about it," he says.
After all, fiery tempers haven't stopped tennis stars from becoming effective spokespeople in the past, why should they now? John McEnroe, well known for his outbursts on the court, has served as a pitch man for products ranging from Nike in 1978 to the USTA last year. In some ways, Williams' outburst on the court, for which she issued an apology, plays into the message the Tampax campaign is seeking to get across to women. That message? Don't let "monthly visits" from Mother Nature get in your way. "She's a bold woman," says Bernens, adding that her bad temperament in the print ad "is all in fun."
Using humor may be the key to successfully turning around a negative celebrity incident, says Darin David, an account director for sports-marketing agency Millsport in Dallas. "There have been other instances when people have been able to play that off and make light of themselves," he says, pointing to Willie Nelson's campaign for H&R Block after his highly-publicized tax problems.
Yet there is a line between forgivable and endorsement-losing. Remember Michael Phelps' pot-smoking imbroglio earlier this year? That caused him to lose a renewal of his endorsement deal with Kellogg's, although the swimming champ did recently manage to re-sign with Speedo.
It might boil down to people forgetting the U.S. Open incident. "Everybody blows their top now and then, and people will leave it to that," says David. "She lost her head for a moment and she's still a great athlete."