The WTA is counting on Donald Trump, Aretha Franklin, Susan Sarandon and other celebrities to draw new fans to tennis.
The women's professional tour launched a print and broadcast marketing campaign Tuesday that features various famous faces in a bid to boost the sport.
More than a dozen celebrities agreed to appear for free in spots, including real estate mogul and reality TV host Trump — a regular visitor to the main stadium during the U.S. Open tournament — Grammy-winning singer Franklin, Oscar-winning actress Sarandon and two-time golf major champion Rory McIlroy.
"All of those celebrities like the sport, so we're using like-minded people to try to build a brand," WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a telephone interview. "We're trying to continue to engage with fans and increase our fan base, and I'm thrilled the celebrities have donated their time to be part of it."
Top players such as 14-time Grand Slam singles title winner Serena Williams, four-time major champions Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters, and currently top-ranked Victoria Azarenka also are part of the "Strong is Beautiful" campaign.
That slogan was first used in the WTA's global marketing efforts last year, with players at the forefront of the ads.
Now the tour wants to broaden its reach.
"In today's congested marketing space, we're trying to cut through that with an inspirational and creative campaign. The use of celebrities with our own celebrities is very much being done, in fact, to draw upon the celebrities' fan base and introduce their fans to the world of women's professional tennis," Allaster said. "If someone is a fan of one of those celebs, the ultimate goal would be to try to engage with those fans and have them watch and follow WTA tennis and ultimately become a fan."
In one 15-second ad, Trump appears alone on-screen and says: "'Strong' is knowing that as much as it takes to get to the top, it takes twice as much to stay there, knowing that legends are made one shot at a time. That's what champions are all about. 'Strong' is women's tennis."