SBD/August 31, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Arthritis Foundation Launching Ad Campaign Featuring Billie Jean King

The Arthritis Foundation and the USTA have announced a new campaign featuring tennis HOFer Billie Jean King that "urges people to take up exercise as a weapon against pain," according to Jane Levere of the N.Y. TIMES. Most of the new ads “show middle-age men and women participating in sports like swimming, biking, boxing and walking, activities the Arthritis Foundation said could help relieve arthritis pain and sometimes even delay the onset of symptoms. The 67-year-old King, who has “had osteoarthritis since she was in her 20s, and had both knees replaced last year,” will appear in some of the spots. TV ads featuring King “depict her playing tennis, with arthritis as her opponent.” In one, King says, “Tennis is a weapon for me with arthritis. There’s nothing like it for me to hit a ball, run to the ball. Any time, any court, I’m ready, let’s go.” The ads carry the tagline, “What’s your weapon? Visit” Print, TV and online advertising featuring King “will appear during the U.S. Open, on screens at stadiums, throughout the grounds, and in collateral material; the USTA also will feature content about the campaign and advertising” on its website and in social media. But Syracuse Univ. sports management professor Rick Burton said, “I don’t know if she fits it. I don’t take her personality to be militaristic. There seems to be a disconnect between the engagement of Billie Jean and advertising using generic weekend warriors.” Univ. of Pennsylvania marketing professor Yoram Wind said the campaign is “too rational.” But King said, “I’m a little chubby, I think people are going to relate. I’m not just somebody who won a championship. I’ve overcome arthritis, I deal with it” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31).
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