SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Jaguars' 'Jax Lab' brings AmEx back to NFL

American Express, largely divorced from the NFL since Visa took over league payment card rights in 1995, is back with America’s top sports property via a sponsorship with the Jacksonville Jaguars that includes title sponsorship to the high-end, all-inclusive Terrace Suite area at the club’s EverBank Field.

The sponsorship is with the AmEx Delta SkyMiles Card and includes signage throughout the stadium, team-controlled media and various cardholder benefits. Visa and MasterCard sponsor the remaining 31 NFL teams.

AmEx will use a variety of marketing approaches, including savings to Delta SkyMiles cardholders.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Jacksonville and the surrounding area are home to a heavy concentration of card members and Delta frequent fliers. Additionally, the market for air travel has become more competitive following Southwest Airlines’ purchase of AirTran last year.

“Retention and acquisition are important goals here,’’ said David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer co-brands at AmEx. “Florida is an incredibly important market, and Jacksonville is a place we haven’t been able to do enough event-wise, so this is perfect.”

Activation will include the ability for around 100 card members per game to upgrade to the Terrace Suite for an incremental fee. For three games, cardholders will be offered packages that include tickets and a sideline pass, or tickets and pregame “chalk talk.”

Under the Jaguars’ new “Jax Lab” sales approach, AmEx will try a variety of approaches. One game will be marketed only to a cardholder database, one to Delta frequent flier members. Offers within the stadium that will provide savings to cardholders are also being designed.

Cardholder satisfaction, and strengthening “acquisition experience,” are among the most important goals, Rabkin said.

Under “Jax Lab,” the Jaguars are using the approach of embracing their weaknesses instead of avoiding them. So, instead of apologizing for being in the nation’s No. 50 TV market, the strategy is to sell the proposition that as the only major professional sports team in a 100-mile radius, the Jaguars’ fan base and media reach extends across Florida and south Georgia.

And while Jacksonville will never be confused with New York or Chicago, “We are offering corporate partners a market that’s uncluttered and highly measurable for testing new ideas and marketing programs,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “We don’t necessarily have the kind of scale to sell like where I came from [MetLife Stadium], so we are expanding [regionally] and offering partners flexibility and a real ability to be heard.”

Those regional efforts include TV coverage for preseason games along with weekly shoulder programming in an area as far north as Charleston, S.C., and west to Mobile, Ala. That network of coverage has expanded from 3 million to 4 million households this season.

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