Marketing Takeaway: US Open 2015

Attending the 2015 US Open has been on our family’s bucket list for over ten years. My husband went to the US Open every year when he was growing up in New York. He’s always wanted to take us to “experience” one of the Grand Slam events. We, finally, buckled down and purchased the tickets in May! The USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows is a beautiful 42-acre venue with 20 outdoor and12 indoor courts. We bought tickets for the first and second days.

It was a zoo in the morning on opening day and took 30 minutes to get through the security gate. As a first-timer, I was amazed at how well-attended this event was. Parents and grandparents take their kids and spent a whole day at the venue. People of all ages come as a group or as a couple. Except for Arthur Ashe Stadium, you can pretty much move around from court to court and watch your favorite tennis player compete and practice. As a marketer, I had my marketing lenses on, when I walked around the venue. Here are my takeaways:

Traditional marketing still works well

Like any popular sports events, the venue is set up with sponsor booths, experience zones, fan centers or VIP lounges. American Express offers an AMEX Fan Center and Chase provides a Chase Lounge for their cardmembers. They take different approaches and provide different perks to their cardmembers.

US open Content marketing

For Chase, card members need to make reservations in advance to get in. It provides an exclusive feel (with free food and free giveaways in the lounge).

The drawback is that not all Chase cardmembers benefit, due to limited space. However, they did give free battery chargers to Chase Cardmembers, although stock ran out the very first day! A three-prong connector is a nice touch. For American Express, everyone can walk in to cool down (it was hot!) on the first floor of its Fan Center. They also provide a members-only lounge on the 2nd floor with portable battery cases that you can use to charge your phone while walking around. I like that a lot!!

Mercedes-Benz, the official vehicle of the US Open, showcases their latest luxury cars at their Brand Center. They also provide Mercedes-Benz car owners with complimentary parking passes.

Global Content Marketing

Source: Mercedes Benz photos   Ralph Lauren’s Polo, the official sportswear of the US Open, has a big store selling their lines of clothes and accessories. As expected, the sportswear and accessories are not cheap with both US Open and Polo logos, but the store is buzzing. For people who can’t shop the store in person, you can also purchase merchandise on the US Open site. Beverage sponsors have their own multiple stands to sell drinks. In addition, to sell coffee, Lavazza gives one small package of coffee roast or a three K-cup for Keurig coffee makers free. Lavazza also ran a US Open Sweepstake on their official Facebook page to win a trip to NYC and courtside tickets to watch the Men’s Final.

Obviously, exclusive sponsorship marketing still works for brands, especially when they can sell products on-site to drive immediate sales. For brands such as American Express, JP Morgan, Chase, Mercedes-Benz, it’s about building awareness and offering it as an exclusive membership benefit. Traditional marketing such as events, sponsorship, media, and product placement still has its place. It works well as long as brands choose the appropriate sponsorship and endorsements.

Content marketing works better online

Mercedes Benz showcases the US Open trophy in their brand center. They offer opportunities for fans to take photos with the US Open trophy. Once the photo is taken, you are given a URL and a code to retrieve your photo. I thought I was able to get the photo once I entered the code. Wrong! Mercedes uses the opportunity to get my personal information such as name, address, e-mail, birthday, car preference etc. As a consumer, I was annoyed. Why can’t I just get the photo and be done?

As a marketer, I totally understand why they did that.

It’s certainly a great way to gather lead information for e-mail marketing, even pass the leads information to their local dealers. Though I didn’t like it, the lead information they gather is a great way to justify their marketing spends for the next year’s US Open sponsorship. It’s also a way (needs to be optimized) to integrate digital with the on-site experience. When I was walking around, I kept thinking how content marketing could work on-site. Attendees come to the US Open to see exciting matches, meet their favorite players, and have a good time. Unless you can tie content efforts to bridge on-site and online experience or enable fun and interactive experience, I’d not recommend content marketing on-site. IBM does a great job using content marketing.

IBM provides exclusive insights and analytics of matches and players by capturing data in real time. The instant data gathered on the court with years of historical US Open data feeds numerous entities, including scoreboards on courts and around the grounds, serve-speed displays, the US Open official apps, TV broadcasts and hundreds of journalists in the on-site media center. The rich streams of data can be analyzed, sliced and diced in many ways to provide insights to reporters, players, coaches, and fans. In addition, IBM creates fun snackable and digestible content using data on-hand to enhance fan experiences. Unfortunately, these images resided on IBM and US Open web pages were not shared or promoted via @USOpen and @IBM twitter accounts. IBM could have done a better job sharing and promoting those fun images.

Global Marketing Examples

Check out the visual content created by IBM’s data on both the US Open IBM page and IBM’s own sites.

IBM’s Taglines for the US Open is very straightforward. It shows what IBM can do for the US Open and its fans. Leveraging its big data capability, this sponsorship works well for IBM to establish its thought leadership.

1st – Tennis Data + IBM = More than the Score

2nd – Tennis Data + IBM = More Insights

3rd – Tennis Data + IBM = More Stories

4th – Tennis Data + IBM = More Excitement

My husband, the boys and I had a great time at the US Open. Since three of them play tennis competitively and are avid tennis fans, they observed closely how pros played tennis and were inspired to practice more. They all walked away with ideas to try when they get home. I walked away with a marketing blog.

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