21st September 2023
When Coco Gauff burst onto the tennis scene and turned pro aged just fourteen, global sportswear brand New Balance was already preparing for her first Grand Slam win and supporting her to become a household name, using her preferred nickname.
Despite officially being named Cori Gauff, the teen tennis phenomenon had always been known as Coco, a nickname given to her by her grandmother, differentiating her from her father, Corey.
With some journalists calling her Cori and some Coco, it was going to be difficult to build her personal brand as she rose through the rankings, with the headlines constantly printing different names for each article. New Balance’s answer? The Call Me Coco Campaign.
Having collaborated with Coco since 2019, New Balance served an ace when creating the campaign that helped the tennis star establish herself as the next up-and-coming, without adding additional pressure on her. Win or lose; Call Me Coco was the slogan and immediately started trending worldwide after she wowed the tennis crowd four years ago, beating legend of the game, Venus Williams at Wimbledon at just fifteen years old. #CallMeCoco was everywhere and there was no longer a question mark after her name.
The American sensation went on to launch several other brand activations with New Balance including her first signature tennis shoes, Coco CG1, which remain the only active women’s signature shoe in the game currently.
The five-year rally between Coco and New Balance looked set to reach its highest heights as she worked her way through the 2023 US Open, winning match after match and coming that little bit closer to winning her first Grand Slam. On Saturday 9 September 2023, Coco Gauff permanently wrote her name in the history books as she took to the court and defeated World Number 1, Aryna Sabalenka in The US Open Women’s Final.
Almost instantaneously as the final point was won, a sea of fifty white t-shirts began to sweep across Coco’s family and friends’ box with the words Call Me Coco Champion written across them, bringing the campaign to the sweetest of victories for both Coco and New Balance.
With slick execution, New Balance ensured Coco herself was given one of the t-shirts before her winning press conference, which was watched by over three million people, making her ESPN’s most-watched-ever major women’s tennis champion.
New Balance followed up on social media with a Call Me Coco Champion post, immediately met with an influx of comments from fans asking where they can buy the t-shirt. With operations already in place, the special-edition shirt went live on New Balance’s website minutes after the teen’s first big win and were available to buy from Sunday onwards.
The first batch of t-shirts, totalling a ‘few thousand’, according to New Balance, sold out in five hours and after being restocked, sold out again. New Balance reported 145,000 unique visitors to the t-shirt’s webpage following the US Open and experienced a 500% increase in keyword search for ‘Coco’ on newbalance.com in September.
On her nineteenth birthday, earlier this year, Coco shared a clip of her eleven years ago singing along to a song at the 2012 US Open. That song was Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen and naturally, this clip resurfaced when Coco shot to her first US Open title, gaining a lot of engagement online and reinforced her campaign with New Balance.
There were many variables that needed to come off for this campaign to be successful. It was never going to be a quick hit when it was coined back in 2019 but rather a vision into who Coco is and what she would become. New Balance believed in her as an athlete and created a multi-layered campaign which promoted her and them in the right way, without ever taking her spotlight.
Call Me Maybe… Call Me Coco… Call Me Champion?
I’d call it Game, Set and Match for New Balance and Coco Gauff.