USTA Courts Inclusivity in 'Let's Tennis' Ads for the U.S. Open

An invitation for everyone to get in the game

The U.S. Tennis Association courts players of all ages and backgrounds through an inclusive campaign that drops ahead of next week's U.S. Open, the organization's showcase event.

Themed "Let's Tennis," the work arrives as the sport's appeal has wavered in recent years, with few fresh faces emerging at the pro level to catch the public's fancy.

Even so, the USTA says tennis enjoyed a 22 percent boost in grassroots participation from 2019 to 2020, as lockdown-weary souls sought outdoor activities conducive to social distancing. Anchored by the :30 below, the campaign seeks to maintain that momentum and entice newbies to give the game a try.

United States Tennis Association | One Court

Developed by creative agency Yard NYC and director Yoni Lappin, the spot, titled "One Court," makes a broad, multicultural appeal, stretching from city playgrounds to heartland farms, with nods to wheelchair players, tech-savvy teens and seniors keeping fit. There's archival footage of Arthur Ashe, who championed social justice and transcended the game. The stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, that hosts marquee U.S. Open matches, including the men's and women's finals, bears his name.

The clip will air nationally during the Open, with additional venue signage and support across digital media. In a youth appeal, streetwear brand Paterson League will launch a corresponding capsule collection.

"Over the next five years, we hope that the perception of tennis is turned on its head, as we actively work to bring in the next generation of diverse participants," USTA marketing chief Amy Choyne tells Muse. "We hope to bring in millions of new players from all around the country to make tennis part of their lives."

That's a wise strategy, as the game has long suffered from an elitist image, with some viewing tennis as a country club pastime, rather than an activity for all.

"When the consumer sees the work, we want them to feel what many others across the country, from Brooklyn to Bayonne to Boca, already feel—that tennis is for them," says Yard creative lead Stephen Niedzwiecki. "It's an easy, energizing and infectious sport. It's as simple as picking up a racket, a ball, finding a wall and hitting."

In terms of creative approach, "we sought to take some chances with a high tempo that mimicked the ebbs and flows of a great tennis rally," he says. "This device gave us the ability to extend the locales and people that showed up. It allowed us to tap into tennis's history and pop-culture roots, as tennis is such a global game."

Yard will amplify these points in in a major USTA rebrand next year.

Increasingly, marketers have portrayed sports as a way of life, woven into the fabric of cultural existence. With "Let's Tennis," the USTA takes a step in that direction. The NBA called such a play in its Idris Elba-voiced campaign, while Reebok explored similar themes. Meanwhile, Adidas and Pepsi both told intense tales of all-consuming fandom (though the latter invoked an amusingly sedentary spirit).

CREDITS

Client: USTA
Agency: Yard NYC
Production Co: Doomsday
Director: Yoni Lappin
DP: Todd Martin
Editorial Co: Final Cut
Editor: Sophie Solomon
Music Production: Future Perfect
Colorist: Jason Wallis (Electric Theatre Collective)

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