AbbVie serves up Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams as new Ubrelvy spokesperson

Tennis star and migraine sufferer Serena Williams joins the AbbVie Ubrelvy team as new spokesperson for the acute treatment. (AbbVie)

In the migraine marketing wars, AbbVie just lobbed an ace: The Ubrelvy maker announced tennis phenom and migraine sufferer Serena Williams is its new spokesperson.

Williams uses Ubrelvy to stop acute onset of the migraines she’s had all her life. In a campaign video, she talks with a physician about her symptoms and history, and how she handles playing tennis and being a mom living with migraines.

Williams notes the "why" of speaking out in the video, saying, “When you have such a good experience with something you generally want to tell people.”

After the initial social media rollout today, Williams will be featured in print and digital advertising for Ubrelvy as well as other marketing initiatives that will be announced soon, AbbVie said.

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“As a respected athlete, entrepreneur, and mother who has pushed boundaries time and again, Serena is the perfect fit to help us raise awareness within the migraine community as she navigates life with migraine alongside a very busy lifestyle," Aimee Lenar, VP of marketing for AbbVie’s U.S. central nervous system business, said in a release.

Williams’ endorsement comes just weeks after competitor Nurtec ODT from Biohaven tapped its own celebrity spokesperson migraine sufferer, Khloe Kardashian.

AbbVie nabbed the first FDA approval for an oral CGRP for acute treatment of migraines in December with Ubrelvy, then under Allergan. Eli Lilly’s Reyvow, an 5-HT1F receptor agonist oral med to treat acute migraine had already been approved in October and launched in January.

Biohaven got its oral dissolving tablet Nurtec approved in February, but then leapfrogged both rivals in DTC marketing. The company debuted its TV, digital and social campaign “Onderful” for Nurtec at the end of March even, as it was still building out its sales force.

AbbVie followed in April with the debut of its Ubrelvy DTC campaign “Anytime, Anywhere,” including two black-and-white TV ads featuring vignettes of people in everyday situations dealing with migraine.

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CEO Vlad Coric told FiercePharma at the time of the early Nurtec launch that the drugmaker accelerated its marketing timeline to get the message out during the pandemic because stress can spark migraines. And with the ability to do telehealth prescriptions, the company thought it could keep people with migraines out of primary care offices and ERs.

The three recently approved oral treatments for acute migraine use sit alongside the also new class of longer-acting injectable CGRP inhibitors, which includes Amgen and Novartis’ Aimovig, Teva’s Ajovy and Eli Lilly’s Emgality.