After paying homage to the iconic Billie Jean King in their previous year’s advertisement, this year’s rendition shines a spotlight on the immortal legacy of Arthur Ashe. He etched his name in history as the inaugural Black athlete chosen for the US Davis Cup squad and stands unparalleled as the sole Black male victor of the singles championships at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
In a rhythmic twist of fate, Moderna returns to the grand stage of the US Open, not with a forehand or a backhand, but with a spotlight on an indelible tennis legacy. A year after their resonant partnership with Billie Jean King for a campaign that echoed like a rallying cry, the pioneering mRNA expert embarks on a new odyssey, placing the spotlight on another tennis titan who changed the game: the incomparable Arthur Ashe.
Drawing inspiration from Apple’s iconic advertising playbook, Moderna’s new endeavor follows the tune of “here’s to the changemakers.” A harmonious ode to two figures who sculpted the courts and society at large, both King and Ashe etched their names in tennis history while eternally altering the fabric of the sport and the world. Ashe, a trailblazing Black athlete, unshackled the chains of racial division on the court, while his later endeavors saw him evolve into a fervent health advocate, his voice reaching far beyond the confines of a tennis court. A canvas so vast, Moderna’s task was as colossal as the legend himself.
Curtains rise on a 30-second Ashe masterpiece. The opening scene, a saxophone’s mellifluous cadence in the background, unveils a monochrome tennis court, a lone figure poised to serve. Zooming in, the camera captures the essence of Ashe – his signature glasses perched atop his resolute gaze. With the serve, the ball slices through a nebulous sky, colliding with a gate that bears the damning words, “white only court.” The impact shatters the gate, a triumphant metaphor transcending generations. Youthful exuberance floods in.
“Because he’s done so much, we really had to look at it and say, ‘how do we encompass all of this in a very short ad?’ The team used animation, bringing it to life with action to show him on a tennis court. We’re trying to convey excitement and bring to life the heritage of what he accomplished in an effective way in a very short piece. It’s the only truly global sporting event in this time period where we can stay front and center and remind people to stay up to date with their vaccines. The timing is good. It’s a global event. It gets a lot of media attention as well.”
– Kate Cronin, chief brand officer at Moderna
Emblazoned across the screen, “he changed the rules” stands as a testament to Ashe’s rule-defying journey. An animated ballet of his life unfolds, a graceful sequence of triumphs on the court, interwoven with hardships off it. A tournament victory morphs seamlessly into an illustration of a heart entwined with cords – a visual anchor for the heart attack that shook him. A newspaper headline screams of his battle with AIDS, followed by a poignant portrayal of Ashe addressing a captivated audience, adorned with the crimson AIDS ribbon.
The brilliance of Moderna’s vision lies in its ability to carve the tapestry of Ashe’s life into digestible segments, each a testament to a different facet of his luminous legacy. “We’re able to cut it in 15-second increments to pick the area we want to focus on. It’s difficult to do because there’s so much that he did, but the way we created the ad creatively was to be able to pull it apart and highlight different aspects of what made him a fantastic changemaker,” reflects Cronin, the architect of this artistic feat.
As the campaign takes flight on the wings of ESPN’s broadcasting, Moderna orchestrates its sponsorship of the US Open with finesse. Billie Jean King, the embodiment of tennis greatness, returns as the voice of this endeavor, her resonance harmonizing with Ashe’s spirit. A Moderna booth beckons attendees to immerse in the narrative, while a crescendo builds towards the men’s semifinals, which will resonate as Moderna night. Yet, amidst this symphony of tennis, the crescendo’s ultimate purpose emerges: to fortify the bond between Moderna and a world hungry for protection, urging all to embrace vaccinations and stand strong against the pandemic’s march.
Indeed, the motif of encouraging mass immunization has sculpted Moderna’s engagement with the US Open. Within the courts’ confines lies not just the heartbeat of a sport but the resonance of hope, beckoning individuals to take up the mantle of protection against COVID-19 and other ailments that dare to cross their path. Moderna’s reprise at the US Open is a harmonious reminder that while the game of tennis evolves with every thunderous rally, the heartbeat of humanity’s fight endures, reverberating through time.