Jamba Juice announced that tennis star Venus Williams has joined the company as a franchise partner and will help the brand enter the Washington, D.C., market.

James White, chairman, president, and CEO of Jamba Juice, told QSR in an exclusive interview that the Williams family had been fans of the brand in their native California, and that Jamba has been in discussion with the camp for the last year about a partnership.

“The D.C. marketplace was a high priority for us because of the makeup of the consumer opportunity that we saw there,” White says.

“We thought that Venus would be the ideal partner; she epitomizes, from our vantage point, a person that leads a healthy, active lifestyle. She’s one of the most recognized athletes on the planet, so we couldn’t think of a better partner to enter the D.C. marketplace with.”

The deal with Williams calls for five stores in the next two years in the D.C.-Maryland market. The first store is slated to open in the summer.

White says the D.C. marketplace will be used as a launch pad for further East Coast growth, and that the brand has plans to grow in Connecticut and Boston. In the meantime, Jamba Juice plans to promote health and wellness activities through Williams’ D.C. stores, White says.

Williams, who has won 41 Women’s Tennis Association titles and seven Grand Slams in her career—and whose sister, Serena, is also a tennis star—was looking for entrepreneurial opportunities, White says. A mutual acquaintance of Jamba Juice and the Williams camp introduced the two parties.

“I have been a long-time fan of Jamba Juice and its mission to help inspire and simplify healthy living,” Williams said in a statement from the company. “Regardless of the venue—whether I am on the tennis court or on an interior design project—keeping fit and eating healthy are critical to ensuring I maintain peak performance.

“Jamba offers a fantastic line-up of tasty, better-for-you products that I can feel good about eating. I am excited to be a part of Jamba and, through that partnership, to be bringing a healthy lifestyle brand to the D.C. metro area that can offer others an easy way to maintain their focus on staying active and eating right.”

White says Jamba Juice is a good fit for athlete partnerships because of its healthy, active brand image. Former National Basketball Association star LaPhonso Ellis is a franchisee in South Bend, Indiana, and the brand has a partnership with the Women’s National Basketball Association, as well.

“It’s a business [athletes] understand, it’s a product they love and use, so it’s a natural fit for us to have this kind of relationship with an athlete like Venus Williams,” White says.

There are no plans for Williams to act as a spokeswoman for Jamba Juice, White says, but he expects the relationship with the tennis star to grow in the coming years.

By Sam Oches

Beverage, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Jamba Juice