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Data and analytics help tennis champion, ambassador of equality, and self-made entrepreneur get an extra advantage.
By Sasha Banks-Louie | May 2021
Whether she’s pounding a 129-mile-per-hour serve on center court or advocating for gender equality on the world stage, tennis champion and entrepreneur Venus Williams says data plays a huge part in her success.
“Looking at data and analytics is how I can really take advantage of my game,” said Williams during a March 30 webcast celebrating Women’s History Month, hosted by Ashley Hart, senior vice president of global cloud marketing at Oracle. “It’s all about knowing what’s going to happen before I get onto the court. And data gives me that extra advantage.”
Using data to up her tennis game is only part of Williams’ winning strategy. Williams has also used data to help raise the pay for other players on the Women’s Tennis Association tour. In 2005, Williams met with French Open officials to discuss some “shocking statistics,” which revealed that in 2004, women tennis players were paid just 93 cents for every dollar male players made. A year later, after pressing the International Tennis Federation’s Grand Slam Board to give the same amount of prize money to both women and men, the United Nations’ cultural organization (UNESCO) named Williams their first official promoter of gender equality. By 2007, Williams had not only won her fourth Wimbledon title, she also succeeded in closing the gender pay gap, making her the first female Wimbledon champion to be paid the same $1.4 million as her male counterpart, Roger Federer.
“It’s all about knowing what’s going to happen before I get onto the court. And data gives me that extra advantage.”
Data has also played a role in Williams’ business endeavors. The founder and CEO of lifestyle and fashion-forward activewear brand EleVen by Venus Williams, full-service design firm V Starr, and plant-based protein company Happy Viking also told Hart that she is constantly looking at data about designs, sales, margins, and customers. “All of these analytics are especially important when we’re launching a new design, or deciding whether to continue an existing one,” Williams said. “Without data, we’re running blind.”
Since the pandemic broke out last March, Williams told Hart that she’s been relying on data to help her, and the 85 people she employs, better engage with customers. Now that she’s leading Instagram Live workouts, posting videos of her practice sessions, and launching new apparel lines on the EleVen by Venus Williams website, Williams said she’s constantly looking at customer feedback. “The world has gone digital, and the touchpoints have become different,” Williams said. “You never know what’s going to resonate, but the data tells you instantly what people like, and what they don’t like.”
Photography: Courtesy of Venus Williams