Serena Williams from her Gatorade farewell tribute with the words Inspiration next to her

I was recently asked what the most inspirational post I’ve ever seen on social media was. I had to think about it a bit because I cry more at inspirational, heartbreaking, or happy stories on social media than I care to admit. Social media has the power to tug on your heartstrings. The more I thought about it; the more one post came to mind… the goodbye tribute Gatorade did for Serena Williams. You might be thinking of all the reasons why I would say this; it had Beyonce in it, it was a touching tribute, it showcases diversity in sports, it represents how far the sport of tennis has come, etc. These are all correct, but there is a deeper meaning behind this to me than just that. 


Growing up, my mom, sister and I would play tennis at the local park. I remember my sister getting these pink tennis balls for breast cancer awareness and refusing to play with them so they wouldn’t get dirty. Tennis was a sport that I have fond memories of. I had an Andre Agassi tennis racket and watched the dynamic duo Serena and Venus Williams transform tennis right before my eyes. They were trendsetters, pioneers, visionaries, and incredible athletes among the best of them.



I have always idolized them and know the tremendous work it takes to excel in a sport as physically and mentally demanding as it is. This is why when I took a sports marketing class in college, and we were tasked with creating an entirely new sporting event, I had to look to the G.O.A.T.S. My group decided to create The Williams’ Royalty Cup, a tennis tournament for young women who would be selected in a draft-style manner by either Serena or Venus. They then would play opponents from the rival sister’s team. The points would be based on how many of the players won their matches representing the sisters. If it ended in a tie, then Serena and Venus would take the court as the deciding factor. The purpose of this was to give young women in tennis a platform to showcase their talents and receive the mentorship and support of the Williams sisters. Even though it was not explicitly required for our presentation to the class, I created a promo video for my group using clips from drone footage of L.A., the Williams sisters, and their matches. Ironically, the song I chose to accompany the footage was Destiny Childs’s “I’m a Survivor.” I was incredibly proud of the work we produced and walked into class on presentation day confident that our idea was sound. I was crushed when I received my grade because it was much lower than we expected. My group approached our professor to ask him why we received the grade we did. His reply, “It wasn’t realistic enough, especially them appearing on the cover of Vogue.” Wow was he wrong. Exactly three months after my college graduation, Vogue released an incredible article about Serena appearing on the cover of Vogue as she was saying farewell to tennis. I will spare you from counting the times they appeared on the cover before we completed the project too.


“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does” – Serena Williams


From Vogue August 9, 2022 article
Photography by Luis Alberto Rodriguez


I cried when I saw Gatorade’s tribute to Serena Williams, narrated by Beyonce (a member of Destiny’s Child). I cried because her legacy was entering a new chapter. I cried because she changed the world. I cried because I saw things from my work that carried through in the ad. I have to admit that I felt very discouraged after taking that class and having that experience, but seeing Gatorade play this ad during the U.S. Open and seeing the impact something like this could have, I felt energized again. The Gatorade ad will always have a special place in my heart because of my personal connection to the game, Serena, and my love of sports. We are entering a new world of sports marketing where your best ad or event may not look like an ad or traditional event. Every kid wants to put on Nikes and hydrate with Gatorade to be just like their favorite player; why not thank them?




More About The Author

Lia Esposito is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a degree in Media and Journalism concentrating in Advertising and Public Relations with an English Minor. She is currently a social media strategist in the fintech industry.


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