Serena Williams to take Bumble's woman-first message to Super Bowl

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LOS ANGELES, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Tennis champion Serena Williams will star in a year-long marketing campaign for the Bumble social networking app that will kick off with a message of women's empowerment during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl, Williams told Reuters in an interview.

Bumble began in 2014 as a dating platform for women to start discussions with potential male partners. The company is aiming to promote newer functions, Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz, which help women find friends and build business networks, alongside dating.

In the campaign called "The Ball is in Her Court," Williams will urge women to make the first move in all aspects of their lives.

"Society has taught us as women to kind of sit back and not necessarily be the first one to speak up. We want to take that and flip the story," Williams said.

"We are letting people know we are not afraid," she added. "We no longer want to cower. We want to stand up."

Williams, one of the world's top athletes, will compete for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open this month. Her broad endorsement portfolio made her 2018's highest-paid female athlete, according to Forbes magazine. She also sits on the board of tech company SurveyMonkey.

Williams helped create the Bumble campaign, which was developed and produced entirely by women, and will serve as global adviser to the company.

"I would not be where I am today had I let the fear of making the first move hold me back," she said.

The campaign will appear across multiple platforms, Bumble said, and its debut will coincide with the Super Bowl, the annual U.S. football championship that draws the year's biggest television audience.

Bumble declined to say if the campaign will include a TV commercial during the game, but Williams said the Super Bowl was "a great opportunity for women's voices to be heard louder."

"We want to make noise," she added. "This is the best and perfect place to make the biggest noise that we can."

Whitney Wolfe Herd, who founded Bumble to shift the power dynamics of dating and serves as chief executive, was initially "ridiculed" for the idea that women should initiate conversations," she told Reuters.

The app now has more than 47 million users worldwide and competes with services such as Match Group Inc's Tinder and a new Facebook dating option.

The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment has helped change opinions, Wolfe Herd said. "People are starting to understand the importance of equality. It's about men and women having healthier relationships and conversations."

In October, Wolfe Herd said Bumble was considering an initial public offering of stock. "Everything is on the table," she told Reuters, including an initial public offering "or staying private or an acquisition in some form."

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Richard Chang)

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