SBJ/April 10-16, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

Aramark wins deal to handle U.S. Open merchandising rights

The U.S. Tennis Association has quietly awarded merchandising rights for the next five years at the U.S. Open to Aramark. Industry sources said Aramark beat out the usual suspects in merchandising, including Legends and Fanatics.

USTA National Tennis Center COO Danny Zausner said the RFP process took around three months and began with five competitors.

A retail venue serves fans during a night match at the Open.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“We wouldn’t have gone wrong selecting any of them,” Zausner said. “Aramark offered a good financial deal and they have broad experience in stadiums, arenas and special events, like the Olympics and Super Bowls.”

Zausner said that while he expects Aramark to do some retail upgrades at the facility, major ones will likely wait a year, until the construction of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium is completed.

Retail venues at the U.S. Tennis Center are open for roughly three weeks around the U.S. Open and gross about $15 million in that time, industry sources said.

Milt Arenson’s now-defunct FMI held the rights from 1996 through 2015. Levy Restaurants, which holds food concession rights at the U.S. Open, serviced merchandise in 2016, with the help of Arenson. Fanatics subsequently bought the remaining assets of FMI last year and installed Arenson as vice president of stadium retail.

This marks Aramark’s second big RFP victory of the year, having earlier triumphed in a “beauty contest” to fulfill NFL merchandising across all the league’s “jewel events,” including the Super Bowl, NFL Draft, Pro Bowl and overseas games.

Meanwhile, Aramark’s had a job opening for “GM — Retail Merchandise — U.S. Open” since last month.

Next on the USTA retail agenda is a shootout for e-commerce rights. FMI’s contract expired in March, and Zausner has dreams of retail extensions beyond the U.S. Open’s Flushing Meadows, N.Y., home. “We’re always thinking about pop-up locations, and Aramark spoke with us about that,” he said. “But in the first year, we’re going to concentrate on site.”

> RETAIL PROMOTION: With around 1,000 new retail locations opening this year, T-Mobile is adding more local support to its MLB leaguewide sponsorship, now in its fifth season. The “Uncarrier” started the season having five local team sponsorships: the Red Sox, Nationals, Angels, Padres and Mariners. Meredith Starkey, T-Mobile senior director of sponsorships, entertainment and events, said that number could double, with the Miami Marlins, which will host this summer’s MLB All-Star Game, a prime suspect.

It’s all about getting deeper local roots to better support and drive traffic to those new stores.

“For a long time, we’ve been very strong as a brand at the urban core, because that’s where the strength of our network was,” Starkey explained. “As we get to the second half of this year, we will be on par with Verizon nationally and be able to compete for coverage, reliability and speed. So we’re expanding out of the urban core into suburban with baseball as a major platform. The strength of MLB against suburban families will work for us and we’ll rely more on local team promotions.”

Accordingly, this year’s media plan includes local baseball buys in 29 of 30 MLB markets (T-Mobile doesn’t market in Canada). However, this year’s spate of T-Mobile MLB ads will also be seen outside of MLB telecasts, on sports and other late-night programming. On the national level, new MLB-themed ads include spots featuring Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz and Dexter Fowler. T-Mobile will again title sponsor the Home Run Derby, held the night before the MLB All-Star Game.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: David Houghton, NFL senior director of events and operations, and a veteran at the league’s New York headquarters, has left after 26 years. … 2016 Forty Under 40 honoree Dana Rosenberg will leave as vice president, global partnerships at Starwood Hotels in June. She turned down an offer to transfer to the Bethesda, Md., headquarters of the newly merged Marriott/Starwood combination. … Former Foot Locker Sports Marketing Vice President Jerry Canning joins marketing technology company Simulmedia, New York, as sales vice president. Canning had been Facebook industry director, financial services, since December 2014.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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