American Express Awes Tennis Fans with Technology
One of the longest-running sports sponsorships in the industry became one of the leading sports sponsorships in the industry when it unleashed a series of technology-fueled “firsts” that gave tennis fans unprecedented access to the sport they love.
The 2015 American Express US Open Activation kicked off with Rally on the River, the first-ever hydro-interactive tennis experience that projected real-time on-court action onto a massive water wall on New York City’s Hudson River. Then, once inside its two-story fan experience at the tournament, consumers could play You vs. Sharapova, the first-ever active virtual reality experience to let people play against a professional athlete. The program served up 1.7 billion p.r. impressions—and even earned a rave review on Twitter from Bill Gates.
It’s all reflective of a new kind of sports sponsorship strategy that’s become a calling card for American Express events: one-of-a-kind on-site activations that are so compelling they’re both share-worthy and newsworthy, giving the program reach on a national scale among customers and prospects alike—and busting out of the confines of the stadium where it all takes place.
For select cardmembers, it all started at Rally on the River at Hudson River Park’s Pier 97. As fans munched on snacks, they watched tennis’s biggest stars (and a few lucky members of the crowd) step onto the court to use responsive tennis rackets designed to translate, in real-time, the players’ every move. As the athletes played, every stroke and movement of the ball was transformed into 3D graphics, animations, sounds and video projections projected onto a 60-foot canvas made out of water.
At the US Open, the two-story, 20,000-square-foot American Express Fan Experience served as the centerpiece of the activation. Inside, fans could grab a haptic responsive racket and HTC Vive virtual reality headset and try to return a serve with live-action and CGI versions of Maria Sharapova. The experience also offered the only fan-accessible tennis courts that featured clinics and meet-and-greets with their favorite tennis pros. Fans could also relax in the space and watch matches streaming on a Jumbotron. Cardmembers enjoyed special amenities in a second-floor lounge that overlooked it all.
Outside the Fan Experience, American Express cardmembers could listen in on matches via branded personal radios. And fans that couldn’t make it to the Open could still get in on all the action, engaging in lively tennis debates through social media.
While the program delivered more than 210,000 visitors to American Express’s US Open experience, it over-delivered on its objective to get America—and the national media—talking about its brand to the tune of 4.9 million social engagements, 197 million broadcast impressions and 16.2 million video views. Rally on the River’s video recap became the most-viewed content in the history of American Express.