Negative sentiment towards Serena Williams has almost doubled following her behavior during the final of the US Open tennis.
The American superstar and brand ambassador for Audemars Piguet was beaten in straight sets by Japan’s Naomi Osaka. During the match she smashed her racket and verbally attacked the match umpire, calling him a cheat and a thief.
She then accused tennis authorities of sexism in a post-match press conference, suggesting that a man would not have been treated as harshly as a woman in the same circumstances.
New York consultant Spotted, a research firm that focuses on celebrities and helps consumer brands understand which celebrities they should work with, says that negative sentiment has almost doubled following the controversy, rising to 31%.
Before the controversy, Ms Williams’ positive to negative sentiment ratio has been steady at 2.5 : 1 over the past three years. To put that ratio in context, other successful tennis players positive to negative sentiment ratios are: Roger Federer at 7.1 : 1, Rafael Nadal at 6.8 : 1, and Venus Williams at 1.3 : 1.
Spotted advises major multinationals on working with celebrities that match their brand values and have the greatest appeal to the target audiences of those brands.
The agency’s research found that searches and mentions for Audemars Piguet remained healthy and steady after the controversy. In fact Audemars Piguet continues to have the highest search interest, compared to its largest competitors (Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Chopard) over the past 12 months.
The consultancy’s Spotted Score, a metric that measures the overall strength of a celebrity endorsement, scores the campaign between Audemars Piguet and Serena Williams as 98.1 out of 100. There are 163 other celebrities that have a higher Spotted Score with Audemars Piguet than Ms Williams.
Interestingly, given the fiercely feminist views of Ms Williams, she is seen by spotted as a worse fit for Audemars Piguet than some male stars. “Williams’ Spotted Score with Audemars Piguet is mostly impacted by a low gender match between Audemars Piguet and Williams, with Williams’ appeal skewing more female than the average Audemars Piguet customer,” the agency says.
Serena Williams’ recognition rate among all US consumers is 91%, higher than Roger Federer at 59%, Rafael Nadal at 45%, and Venus Williams at 87%.