For the second consecutive year, Moderna is participating as a sponsor at the U.S. Open.

Starting Monday morning, the biopharma company is airing a 30-second spot on ESPN as a continuation of its Here’s to the Changemakers campaign.

While last year’s ad featured women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King, this year’s incarnation celebrates the legacy of Arthur Ashe, the first Black player selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team as well as the only Black man ever to win the singles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.

Beyond his historic accomplishments on the court, Ashe was also a civil rights activist who publicly challenged South Africa’s apartheid policy. Following a heart bypass procedure in the early 1980s, Ashe acquired HIV and ultimately passed away in 1993 due to AIDS-related pneumonia.

However, before his passing, Ashe established the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS to raise awareness about the disease, combat stigmatization surrounding the virus and advocate for health equity.

In the years since his passing, Ashe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ESPN dedicated the Arthur Ashe for Courage Award at its annual ESPY Awards and the main stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center where the U.S. Open is played was named in his honor.

Moderna chief brand officer Kate Cronin said that like King and Ashe, the company sees itself not only as a well-known manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines but rather as a consumer brand interested in changing how healthcare is delivered and accessed.

“When we think about health, we think about access for all and [Ashe’s] core ethos was aligned to what we stand for and believe in. We wanted to celebrate him and celebrate his legacy” she said.

The ad was created by TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, Moderna’s global agency of record, and will run from August 28 through September 10. 

Building off of last year’s successful debut, Cronin said the company sought to reup at the U.S. Open given the tournament’s sizable TV audience, (ESPN averaged 1.21 million viewers during the 2022 event) as well as the hundreds of thousands who attend in-person.

At this year’s tournament, Moderna will also have an above brand advertisement encouraging attendees to stay up to date on their seasonal vaccines as well as its 30-second No Time for 19 ad airing on ESPN.

As for the in-person component, the company is hosting ‘Moderna Night’ on September 8, which will feature digital signage throughout the stadium promoting vaccines, the airing of the Ashe ad on the jumbotron and a photo booth with an ‘edutainment’ element. 

Spectators will be able to talk with Moderna representatives about their health and preventative steps to avoid disease before having the opportunity to sign a camera lens like tennis players do after they win a match. Consumers will be able to share their signature on social media in a fun way to engage with the brand, Cronin said. 

She added that the timing of the U.S. Open, which occurs just before people are set to receive their annual booster shots for COVID-19 and the flu, makes the event an important one to advertise at. 

“When you look at opportunities to talk about COVID vaccination and the importance of preventative vaccines, the U.S. Open is a global event that falls right before people are going in to get their vaccines,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to engage in a fun way with consumers so you’re not lecturing them, you’re not scaring them but you’re engaging in a sporting event that everyone loves.”

The U.S. Open sponsorship and focus on Ashe’s battle with HIV/AIDS also speak to Moderna’s ongoing effort to change public perception that it is only a COVID vaccine manufacturer.

In April, Moderna launched a global campaign to promote its mRNA capabilities and bring consumers into the “mRNAge.” Cronin said the company is utilizing these next two weeks to inform people about the potential of mRNA in other disease states, highlighting Moderna’s ability to be a changemaker and raise the importance of vaccinations and public health messaging.