How Serena Williams Will Keep Breaking Barriers With Nike Long After She Steps Off Court

While the 2022 US Open could be the last time Serena Williams hits the court in a Grand Slam, her impact on the sport is far from over.

Throughout her more than 30-year career, Williams has used her platform to break barriers for female athletes. And with help from Nike, that’s only going to continue.

For instance, Nike and Williams created the Serena Williams Design Crew design apprenticeship program in 2019 to promote diversity in design and establish a new generation of design talent at Nike and beyond. In January 2020, the first group of young talents visited the brand’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., and worked for six months to produce footwear, apparel and accessories inspired by the tennis icon in the worlds of performance and lifestyle product. Since then, the program has only advanced.

Tanya Hvizdak, VP of global women’s sports marketing at Nike, told FN that Nike currently has 13 apprentices in the program from Williams’ hometown of Compton, Calif.

“Serena is extremely passionate about design. And she’s also passionate about providing opportunities to groups that maybe haven’t necessarily been afforded those platforms. And through our partnership, she saw an opportunity to give designers, young people, passionate in that space, the opportunity to work with an incredible organization and elevate them. It’s allowed for a new group of diverse individuals into our organization to really help push and bring new thought and experience into that space,” explained Hvizdak.

Williams was also a central force in the launch of one of Nike’s most far-reaching platforms in years, The Nike Athlete Think Tank. Through this initiative, athletes are able to provide unfiltered feedback about their unique journeys and the changes they wanted to see regarding financial aspect of creating access to sport, inclusion and community efforts, among other topics.

“She was part of that first inaugural crew. And that really laid the foundation. I’m excited to say that we’re in our second cohort. And Serena has expressed interest in continuing to be involved,” said Hvizdak.

Last month, Williams covered Vogue’s September issue where she announced her plans in a verbal essay with the magazine. “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she said.

Hvizdak is excited about what the future holds. “The thing that’s most incredible is just she transcends sport. The amount of decades and generations that she’s been able to impact is just absolutely incredible. And I think what she’ll continue to bring will be even more impactful. And she spoke to that a little bit when she was talking about her retirement and how she’s excited about what the evolution of Serena means,” Hvizdak said.

Hvizdak added that the tennis star’s authenticity and unapologetic self has connected with consumers through the years and continues to do so today.

“Serena is so integral into the push that we’ve seen. She’s showing what’s possible, whether it’s Serena Ventures or the SWDC, she continues to break glass ceilings. And that’s where you see us as a brand continuing to lean in. We continue to say that sport has the ability to move the world forward. And in Serena, she just exemplifies that.”

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