Fans and brands have made a triumphant return to the 2021 US Open Tennis Championships after spectators were banned from last year’s event due to COVID. This year’s competition, taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 12, is being held at 100 percent capacity for attendees that have shown proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Tens of thousands of tennis buffs will ultimately descend on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, before the tournament comes to a close—and sponsors are wasting no time capitalizing on the fervor of the moment. Activating both on- and off-site, brands are vying for fans’ attention with technology, art, lounge spaces, immersive photo ops, hospitality plays and more. Let’s take a look at the brands making a racket.
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To celebrate the launch of its first line of electric vehicles, US Open sponsor Mercedes-Benz is educating tennis fans on its electrification efforts. Within its brand center at Billie Jean King, the automaker and tech partner Pavegen are inviting attendees to walk across a pathway of kinetic floor tiles that generate reusable clean energy with each step. As fans walk over the tiles, the weight from their footsteps compresses an electromagnetic generator, which in turn transforms each individual footstep into a small amount of energy that is converted into clean electricity. That electricity will be used to help power an exclusive upcoming event with brand partner Alicia Keys, and Mercedes will randomly select one participant each day of the tournament to receive two tickets to attend the event later this year. To boot, for each person who walks the pathway, Mercedes will make a $1 donation per footstep to The National Energy Education Development Project to help bring sustainability resources to schools through curriculum and customizable programs.
The footprint also includes a look at the new EQS, the first all-electric luxury sedan from Mercedes-EQ, which is showcased in two separate displays. Fans can additionally participate in a VR tennis game featuring an LED wall that displays energetic movement as the match unfolds. Participants use rackets embedded with sensors to serve and hit a virtual ball back and forth, all right inside the brand center.
IHG HOTELS & RESORTS
IHG, the official hotel and hotel loyalty partner for the 2021 US Open Tennis Championships, is inviting fans to stay in a room at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi in Manhattan where a meticulously curated tennis installation awaits. “Tennis in Wonderland” is an Insta-worthy space in which every last detail has been transformed into a tennis-inspired design element. Think: a tennis racket chandelier, tennis ball furniture and larger-than-life 3D wall art. What’s more, an “Epic” ambassador delivers snacks and custom cocktails to the room as guests watch the match and hang out with friends. Bookings were available starting Sept. 1.
WILSON SPORTING GOODS
Wilson has been the official ball and racket stringer of the US Open for more than four decades and this year, the sporting goods brand is celebrating those deep roots with a pop-up museum called “Love All: A Wilson Tennis Experience.” Located in New York City, the museum opened up with an assist from tennis legend Billie Jean King and pays homage to Wilson’s distinguished history in the sport of tennis. The space highlights trailblazing athletes, Wilson Advisory Staff members and key tennis milestones.
The first floor of the pop-up also serves as a retail location offering Wilson sportswear, footwear, balls, accessories and tennis rackets, including limited-edition items. The brand is also providing “racket maestro” racket customization, interactive experiences like tennis ball art and apparel personalization, and a gallery featuring a display that showcases the making of a modern racket. On the second floor of the space, Wilson is hosting events and offering tournament viewing from an exclusive Sky Box lounge.
Perhaps the US Open’s most illustrious sponsor is long-time USTA partner American Express, which this year is executing on- and off-site experiences to engage tennis fans and reward cardmembers. The brand discovered that cardmembers purchased 56 percent more tickets during its 2021 US Open pre-sale compared to the same window in 2019, demonstrating that consumers were ready to return to the action.
The big draw for 2021 were the first-ever American Express Courts at Pier 76 in New York City. According to a recent study from the Physical Activity Council, tennis play is up by 22 percent in the U.S. and as demand has increased, tennis fans are experiencing court shortages. To solve for this pain point, Amex made available six pop-up tennis courts with spectacular views of the Hudson River from Aug. 23-31. Five courts were reserved for cardmembers to pre-book, while the sixth could be utilized by anyone on a first-come-first-serve basis. In addition to the courts, the brand provided an open-air lounge offering food and drinks.
Lounge spaces at the stadium are also part of Amex’s engagement strategy. The brand’s Centurion Lounge at the US Open Centurion Suite is offering 60-minute, bookable dining experiences. Platinum cardmembers can enjoy fare from chefs Ignacio Mattos and Cédric Vongerichten, the executive chefs of the Centurion Lounges at JFK and LaGuardia Airports. They can also sip on cocktails developed exclusively by Centurion Lounge mixologist Jim Meehan. Meanwhile, the newly-launched Amex Patio located near Court 17 serves as an open-air space where cardmembers can relax, recharge and enjoy misting fans. The patio complements the newly located cardmember lounge at Louis Armstrong Stadium, where cardmembers and up to two guests can escape the heat, purchase food and beverages and scoop up four exclusive, customizable designs from Ralph Lauren.
Additional Amex touchpoints include American Express Radios distributed to cardmembers to help them stay on top of the courtside action and a spend offer that provides cardmembers with a $20 statement credit when they spend $100 or more with their enrolled cards at eligible merchants on-site. Agency: Momentum Worldwide.
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for American Express
Emirates returned to the US Open as the tournament’s official airline for the tenth year in a row. On-site, the brand is offering an ultra-premium hospitality experience within its Emirates suite, and at the Emirates Sports Café, an assortment of food and beverages are available. For those who couldn’t make it to the event in person, Emirates is leveraging its social channels to deliver engaging experiences, like a virtual talk show organized by the USTA featuring a host that engages with fans and special guests on a variety of topics.
But Emirates didn’t stop there. Aboard its flights to the U.S. during the tournament dates, tennis fans flying First and Business Class can enjoy the US Open Overhead Smash, a bourbon-based craft cocktail. Meanwhile, customers traveling in all classes can catch all the US Open action on Emirates ice TV Live.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Grey Goose’s signature US Open cocktail, the Honey Deuce, which has practically become synonymous with the tournament. The cocktail and various bites are being served across the stadium, while a Frozen Honey Deuce is available in the Food Village. And at its on-site suite, Grey Goose is welcoming friends of the brand back to the space after a spectator-less 2020.
To engage fans at home, Grey Goose created a Honey Deuce Cocktail Kit that includes everything needed to mix the iconic cocktail— Grey Goose vodka, fresh lemonade, raspberry liqueur, tennis-inspired honeydew melon balls for garnish and the official 2021 US Open commemorative cups. The kit is available for delivery throughout the tournament across 40 key markets, including one-hour delivery in Chicago, New York City and Miami.
“After 15 years of serving the Honey Deuce, the signature cocktail has become immensely popular and is as much of a symbol of the US Open as the tennis matches themselves,” says Aleco Azqueta, vp-marketing North America at Grey Goose. “Being able to pair such a popular signature cocktail with a major, beloved sporting event creates a common platform for the brand and the tournament to engage with consumers.”
Long-standing US Open sponsor Chase is offering tennis fans and cardmembers an exclusive lounge experience on-site at the tournament featuring air conditioning, snacks, beverages and a complimentary US Open hat. Beyond the lounge, the brand is touring high-traffic locations and tennis clubs in the five boroughs of New York City in a mobile unit, offering tennis fans daily goodies like speakers and blankets for cardmembers, and fanny packs and keychains for non-cardmembers. To boot, Chase launched a hologram activation next to Penn Station using PORTL technology that lets fans “beam” into a PORTL unit and become a hologram… standing in front of holograms of the US Open trophies.
— david nussbaum (@theNuzzy) September 12, 2021