Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2

Marketing and Sponsorship

Coyle Media Inc. has launched a website,, devoted to digital fan marketing, marking an outgrowth of the Indianapolis-based company’s series of digital marketing conferences. will focus on more than sports., much like the company’s Digital Fan Marketing Summits, will take a broad look at all entertainment-related digital marketing, focusing not only on sports, but also the intersection of TV, movies, music, gaming and consumer brands with digital and social media. The site is designed as a “community blog,” with content representing a mix of original, user-submitted and aggregated material.

“The idea of the events is to learn and connect, and to look outside of our own very specific verticals — and the website is a direct extension of that,” said Pat Coyle, president of Coyle Media. “We’re not going to have a huge staff of writers and necessarily try to be something like [digital media news site] Mashable. But we’ll put a lot of emphasis on curation and conversation within the community.” will be monetized primarily by sponsorship, with many companies purchasing combined packages for the site and conferences.

Coyle, the former executive director of digital business for the Indianapolis Colts, will maintain his digital sports-oriented consulting and business development practice.

“A lot of the consulting clients are coming in some fashion from the events, and that’s where we’re meeting people and beginning a lot of these relationships, so there’s definitely interconnection between these pieces of the business,” Coyle said.

Helping to sell naming rights to the new Meadowlands stadium that houses the New York Jets and Giants was one of the last large deals Jeff Knapple will perform for Wasserman Media Group, where he is a principal.

Jeff Knapple
Knapple sold part of his company Envision to join Wasserman in 2002. The naming-rights pioneer, who played briefly in the NFL, USFL and CFL during the 1980s, is leaving Wasserman sometime soon.

“Casey [Wasserman] and I have had a good friendship and partnership, but it is just time to finish this phase out and move out,” Knapple said last week, referring to Wasserman’s chairman. “I am not sure yet whether it’s best to go in-house for a brand or do something myself, but I have found it is a fun time to be a free agent.”

Questions about Knapple’s future have been floating around the industry ever since former MLB sales chief John Brody joined WMG as global sales head last August.

The first naming-rights deal Knapple worked on was the Target Center in Minneapolis in 1989. That deal was for $250,000 per year, and Knapple negotiated on behalf of Target with current president of AEG Tim Leiweke, then a sponsorship vice president at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since then, Knapple has been involved in a plethora of naming-right deals, including the Staples Center, Toyota Center, Philips Arena, The Home Depot Center, Citizens Bank Park and Emirates Stadium. As he wraps up this chapter of his career, here are some thoughts from a naming-rights first-mover.

MOST UNIQUE NAMING-RIGHTS DEAL FOR YOU: “This one [MetLife] was definitely the most complex. It ended up taking 4 1/2 years. You had two NFL teams sharing a building, the biggest market in the country, a recession like nothing anyone had been through before and a lockout. I can’t believe anything like all that will happen again.”

BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT NAMING RIGHTS: “That they don’t work. I hear people say they can’t remember all the names, but contrast that with the relationship you can build between brands and consumers using naming rights. There is no better way.”

ADVICE TO ANYONE BUYING OR SELLING NAMING RIGHTS: “Teams can’t look at it as just a way to generate signage and advertising revenue. They have to be willing to enter into a real holistic marketing relationship with the naming-rights partner, and then everyone will be OK.”

ONE THAT GOT AWAY: “Not taking away anything from the MetLife deal, which was great, but I wish we could have handled the Allianz deal in whatever way was necessary to keep it intact. Not that I know then — or now — what that was or should have been.”

At last week’s official unveiling, MetLife executives were peppered with questions about what kind of return on investment the company’s 25-year naming-rights deal, valued at $17 million to $20 million per year, with the New Jersey stadium that houses the NFL Giants and Jets would have.

In truth, it was the return MetLife had already achieved from its years as a cornerstone partner that was more important.

“We’d gotten more visibility than we anticipated as a corner partner, and the amount we were able to engage with fans was another area where we underestimated the stadium’s impact,” said MetLife CMO Beth Hirschhorn, speaking from the rechristened stadium’s Coaches Club.

Hirschhorn said that activation programs from MetLife agency Van Wagner Sports were over-delivering. So, shortly after the last Super Bowl, when stadium President and CEO Mark Lamping called Hirschhorn to suggest it was time for MetLife to “really get serious about naming rights,” a meeting was quickly arranged. Both parties recalled it as a relatively informal gathering, but in that meeting — and a more lengthy formal presentation that followed — MetLife began to buy into the vision of why a company that already had a building with its name on it in Manhattan, not to mention a corner of the Jets/Giants Meadowlands home, needed more exposure.

“I’ve done this enough times that I can tell right away when it turns, and in meetings early this year, I could see it was resonating,” said Jeff Knapple, who had been working on the project since 2007 for Wasserman Media  Group. “The challenge I saw right away from their perspective was why they should be doubling-down in New York as opposed to the global aspirations any large company has. As a New York company, my feeling is that they decided if there was any place for them to do this deal, it was here.”

It’s a deal (from left): Jets owner Woody Johnson, MetLife President and CEO Steven Kandarian, Giants president and CEO John Mara and Giants chairman and EVP Steve Tisch.
Hirschhorn said that in an age of media fragmentation, MetLife ultimately decided that it would take a deal as big as a title sponsorship in the nation’s biggest market, and with a Super Bowl forthcoming to the stadium, to break though the marketing clutter in a relatively low-interest category.

“Insurance is not a category everyone thinks about as much as we do,” she said. “So some constant source of a subtle reminder of the brand is what we’re trying to achieve.”

Lamping said that after the evaluation of media exposure, some key early support came in the form of data from BrandAsset Consulting, which underscored both the power of the NFL and its two New York market teams, and the yin-yang fit of the brands with MetLife.

“We became even more convinced of the brand match both ways,” Hirschhorn said. “The MetLife brand is known as trustworthy, stable and financially strong. Where we could use some assistance is in the dynamic nature of their brands and the energy they bring. And, if you are a large company, with a lot of customers and prospects to reach week in and week out, all roads lead through the NFL — and having two teams makes that ROI easier to achieve.”

Sources said there was considerable negotiation on what category rights would go with the naming-rights deal. Originally, the company wanted broad-based financial services along with broad insurance rights. Eventually, it settled on the latter. Restructuring rights and payments from being a corner partner to holding naming rights was an area that sources said was not contentious but took considerable time to resolve.

By May, there was optimism on both sides that the deal would happen. “Other than the fact the activation at the stadium was obviously working for us, one of the things that really moved this along was that this is a stadium where the sponsor benefits and angles were designed from the inside out,” said Richard Hong, MetLife vice president of global brand and marketing services, describing the adaptability of the proposal.

The naming rights announcement was timed to coincide with the Jets-Giants preseason game.
MetLife Field was briefly suggested as a name, but MetLife Stadium won out quickly. Attorneys for each side exchanged signed pages of a document of almost 200 pages in early August. Last week’s announcement was timed to coincide with the Jets-Giants preseason game to follow.

“I’m in a state of combined elation and relief,” said Lamping, asked to describe his emotions after a 4 1/2-year sales process.

Selling a name to the “New Meadowlands” included dynamics that will likely never again combine at one facility: two teams sharing a venue, an earlier deal being pilloried by media accounts of potential naming-rights partners Allianz’s Nazi ties during World War II, and a recession that devastated many potential naming-rights partners and cut marketing budgets to the bone.

“Now we have another piece of real estate to sell and a game this weekend between our two teams, so I’m not sitting back,” said Lamping ahead of last Saturday’s scheduled preseason game.

Wasserman will continue to be involved in selling the corner spot being vacated by MetLife — with the others held by Pepsi, Verizon and Anheuser-Busch. Numerous sources said that while MetLife, as the first tenant in, having signed in 2008, was paying an average of $5 million a year for its corner position, the stadium is hoping to get twice as much from a new tenant. As always, pricing will vary by category, but already on the market are proposals with a top price of $12 million a year that include title rights to the New Jersey Transit station next to the gate and the 50-yard-line naming-rights suite that MetLife chose not to buy as part of its package, along with a large video display that is featured at the gate now held by MetLife.

“From the beginning, we all designed a ‘less is more’ strategy, where only five partners would get exposure in the bowl,” said Wasserman Media Group sales chief John Brody. “There can be no stronger validation of that strategy than that the first partner in would step up to naming rights.”

After several years of working with regional grocers to promote the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR landed its first national retail promotional partner.

The sanctioning body signed a one-year agreement with Dollar General that will result in an in-store promotion around the Chase for the Sprint Cup at all of the discount retailer’s more than 9,000 outlets.

Dollar General will run a “Race In to Win” sweepstakes in stores through Nov. 12, offering customers the chance to win more than 9,000 prizes, highlighted by a trip to Las Vegas for NASCAR’s championship celebration and a $250,000 giveaway. Promotional materials will be on shelves, flyers and receipts during the next three months.

The in-store promotion will incorporate NASCAR consumer packaged goods sponsors such as Unilever, which will promote Hellmann’s; Coca-Cola, which will promote Powerade; and Kraft, which will promote Oreo.

Dollar General will use Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has a relationship with Hellmann’s through the driver’s Nationwide Series team, for the program in stores, online and in radio ads.

Matt Shulman, NASCAR director of business solutions, said the program is a national extension of the regional promotions the grocer Brookshire’s ran last year in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as around the Chase.

Dollar General also sponsors Kyle Busch’s truck in eight races, a full Nationwide Series season with Turner Motorsports, and the Izod IndyCar Series team Sarah Fisher Racing.

NASCAR officials said the deal doesn’t affect its agreement with Wal-Mart, negotiated earlier this year.

NASCAR worked with its retail marketing agency, Bulldawg Marketing, to put together the deal. Dollar General plans to manage the promotion internally.

NASCAR this week will roll out its first multiplatform Hispanic marketing initiative, built around the tag line “Bienvenidos a NASCAR.”

The program will include Spanish-language television and radio advertisements, signage at track, virtual garage tours, Spanish-speaking brand ambassadors at races, and a concert series featuring artists who appeal to Hispanic consumers. The initiative will take place across the Chicago, Phoenix and Miami markets before the races those tracks will host Sept. 18, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20, respectively.

The effort follows a nearly yearlong study of NASCAR’s fan base that saw the sanctioning body identify the Hispanic community as an area from which it needs to attract more fans. NASCAR now says that its multicultural audience is 20 percent of its total audience, which is pegged at 75 million. About half of that multicultural audience is Hispanic, which would equal 7.5 million fans.

NASCAR officials hope that the combination of Spanish-language advertising, brand ambassadors and signage at-track increases awareness of the sport among Hispanics and results in increased ticket purchases and long-term interest in the sport.

“This is not our first effort in the space, but it is a significant one,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “Over the next five years, we want to index more closely to the Hispanic share of the U.S. population [which is 16.3 percent]. We know that’s not going to happen overnight.”

The efforts expand on previous Hispanic marketing initiatives undertaken across the sport. In the past, individual tracks such as Homestead-Miami and Phoenix International Raceway have offered special Juan Pablo Montoya ticket promotions designed to appeal to the Hispanic community, and NASCAR has brought drivers in from its Mexican series, the NASCAR Corona Series, to make
Felix Sabates (top) and Juan Pablo Montoya talk NASCAR in new spots aimed at Hispanics.
appearances at races in the U.S. But this is the first time the tracks and sanctioning body have partnered on a joint campaign.

NASCAR hired the Houston-based Hispanic marketing agency Tippit & Moo to assist with developing the “Bienvenidos a NASCAR” campaign. The first TV spots, which were filmed by NASCAR Media Group, debut in Chicago this week on Univision. They show team investor Felix Sabates, drivers Aric Almirola, Miguel Paludo and Montoya, and a fan with his two daughters talking about the spectacle of races, the ability to bring family, and the speed, energy and emotion of a race.

Each spot concludes with customized ticket information for the races in Chicago, Phoenix and Miami. NASCAR covered the cost of the commercials and is sharing the costs of advertising time with the tracks.

The TV and radio spots will begin running in the Chicago, Phoenix and Miami markets three weeks before races. In the days ahead of the race, NASCAR and the tracks plan to send simulators, haulers and show cars to Hispanic festivals like Fiesta Patrias in Chicago (Sept. 11) and Dia de la Raza in Phoenix (Oct. 15).

Fans who attend the races will see wall signage at each track that says “Bienvenidos a NASCAR.” There also will be bilingual brand ambassadors available who will pass out a bilingual fact sheet on the sport and answer questions. Both Phoenix and Miami plan to offer concerts with artists who appeal to Hispanics, as well.

“This isn’t just about a ticket offer,” said Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock. “This is about creating a destination so that when the Hispanic market comes out and checks out the race they have a good experience. That’s why we’re investing in a bilingual information booth and offering Hispanic food and beverages. This is a long-term investment, and it’s important to us as an industry.”

“Those at-event touchpoints are a key component of this program,” Jadotte said. “We want to not only lay out a broad invitation to the Hispanic community but create an at-track experience that is both culturally relevant and welcoming and provides an introduction to the sport.”

Jadotte described this year’s Hispanic marketing initiative as a test and said NASCAR will look to roll out similar efforts next year in key markets with large Hispanic populations, such as Texas, California, Las Vegas and Charlotte.

“This program isn’t designed to be a one-time fix,” Jadotte said. “It’s a long-term commitment, and one we’ll begin this fall.”

Faced with an aging fan base and a need to develop more young fans, NASCAR hired a college marketing agency to promote the sport across 12 college campuses nationwide.

University Directories, a North Carolina-based marketing agency with a network of student employees across more than 40 colleges, developed a college ambassador program called NASCAR U Crew. Two students on campuses stretching from the University of New Hampshire to Florida International and Virginia Tech to Arizona State will develop a series of at least 10 on-campus events designed to raise awareness of the sport and drive student attendance at races at nearby tracks.

“This is about getting in front of students directly and getting them to try NASCAR,” said Steve Sweeney, NASCAR’s director of consumer marketing. “This is a test for us.”

NASCAR brought each brand ambassador to Pocono Raceway in early August and gave them a chance to experience the sport by riding with drivers in trucks during driver introductions and spending a day with Camping World Truck Series teams on race day.

Each team of University Directories employees is charged with developing a minimum of 10 marketing initiatives on its campus. Those can range from organized student tours of nearby tracks to race viewing parties.

The program is just one of a series of initiatives NASCAR has undertaken in recent years as it tries to appeal to college students.

NASCAR U Crew Track-School Combinations

Chicagoland Speedway / University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
New Hampshire Motor Speedway / University of New Hampshire
Dover International Speedway / University of Delaware
Kansas Speedway / University of Kansas
Charlotte Motor Speedway / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Talladega Superspeedway / Auburn University
Martinsville Speedway / Virginia Tech
Texas Motor Speedway / University of North Texas
Phoenix International Raceway / Arizona State University
Homestead-Miami Speedway / Florida International University, University of Miami

Source: NASCAR

The NHRA signed an affinity card agreement with UMB Bank, which will allow the drag racing association to release its first customized credit cards since 2009.

The multiyear deal will see UMB Bank, a subsidiary of the Kansas City-based UMB Financial Corp., offer five NHRA-branded affinity credit cards. The organization’s previous relationship with MBNA, which ended in 2009, allowed it to offer just one card.

The highlight of the deal is the ability for NHRA members and fans to upload an image of their own race car or street car to be placed on the UMB credit cards. Organization officials expect that offering to be especially popular among its 80,000 members, many of whom are amateur racers who are known to spend hours working on their own drag racing cars.

UMB has an agreement with the Porsche Club

of America, and more than half of the affinity cards provided through that program are personalized to feature the individual cardholder’s Porsche. Douglas Davis, UMB vice president, said he expects the personalization offering through the NHRA program to be equally popular.

“It’s unprecedented that an organization can put a picture of their choice on a card,” Davis said. “Personalization moves things, and it’s going to be really cool to see all these hot rods come in.”

Like most affinity card agreements, the deal with UMB Bank is a licensing agreement that will see UMB pay the NHRA activation fees and a percentage of fees collected when cards are used.

“Our last affinity card agreement proved to be very lucrative, and we anticipate this being very successful for us as well,” said Tony Driscoll, the NHRA’s vice president of sales and business development.

The NHRA plans to promote the cards on its website, in email blasts and in direct-marketing materials.

“We love to partner with something that’s proven, and the NHRA has tons of fans and drivers and had a previous program that was proven,” Davis said.

UMB, which has more than 800 affinity card partners, has banking operations in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

On the eve of the college football season, two powerhouses in sports marketing, UPS and MillerCoors, are taking aggressive steps to create some of the largest sponsorships in collegiate athletics.

These extensive eight-figure deals will provide the companies with a significant presence on campus and a broad national platform, the kind that’s been difficult to achieve in the fragmented college space.

The UPS agreement with close to 70 schools and a handful of conferences will give the logistics and shipping giant promotional rights from coast to coast. The deal, believed by industry sources to be worth $20 million to $25 million a year, includes many of the top college football programs in the country from IMG College’s stable, which features Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia, UCLA and others.

By comparison, State Farm’s portfolio of 90 schools is considered one of the largest in the college space, but it took the insurance company about 25 years to string together all of these deals individually.

UPS’s deal represents one of the most ambitious plans to stitch together a national program outside of a traditional NCAA corporate sponsorship, and it showcases the growing role of college sports as a viable national platform.

“What we’re seeing could be a tipping point for these types of huge, scalable deals in college athletics,” said Rick Jones, a veteran sports marketer in the college space with Fishbait

Where MillerCoors uses the college logo, it will use responsibility messaging with it, such as “21 Means 21.”
Marketing, which represents the college coaches associations. “I’m really eager to see what’s next on the horizon and whether this is the start of something or just some individual deals. But what it shows with so many schools is that the model can work.”

UPS also is in talks for sponsorship positions in the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, with its activation focused on the football championship games for both leagues. UPS already has a partnership with the SEC.

Officials from UPS and IMG College would not comment on the deal.

MillerCoors, meanwhile, unveiled an integrated marketing program across 23 schools to its employees and distributors last week that includes heavy responsibility messaging and the use of college marks on point-of-sale material.

Both IMG w and Learfield Sports, the nation’s two major multimedia rights holders, signed deals with MillerCoors, which will promote its Miller Lite and Coors Light brands.

Terms of the deals were not announced, but MillerCoors’ total spending is believed to be in the $10 million range annually, according to industry experts.

The heavier presence in college football will help the Coors Light brand offset the loss of its NFL official partnership this fall. Coors signed on in 2002 as the NFL’s beer category sponsor, a position it held through the 2010 season before Anheuser-Busch took it over this season.

“These are deals that offer multi-regional properties and very strong retail activation tools,” said Jackie Woodward, MillerCoors’ vice president for media and marketing. “We’re still very strong in the NFL with 21 team deals. We’re strong with fantasy football and Major League Baseball. College is now becoming a very nice part of the overall portfolio, particularly with our responsibility messaging.”

For UPS, the deals represent a deeper association with college properties. The company first moved into the space in March 2010 when it struck a deal to become an NCAA corporate partner, which gives it full promotional rights against the Final Four and NCAA tournament.

This deal with close to 70 colleges will put UPS on the ground for college football season with access to signage, TV and radio advertising, game programs, Web advertising, hospitality and tickets.

Many of UPS’s sponsorships include a significant business-to-business component as well, and it remains to be seen if these schools will make the company their exclusive source for shipping and logistics.

Industry sources say it’s common for the athletic department to introduce its sponsors to key decision-makers on the other parts of campus, where UPS might find more business.

The company is believed to be working through the final stages of closing the deals and an announcement could come in the next week or two.

UPS’s sponsorship represents one of the first major wins for IMG College’s new national sales group, which has been touting the college space as a viable alternative to other national properties.

IMG College was formed through $300 million worth of acquisitions, starting with Collegiate Licensing Co. and Host Communications in 2007 and adding ISP Sports in 2010. That $300 million was essentially a bet that the combined companies could consolidate the fragmented college market and make it easier to navigate for sponsors.

The acquisition of ISP Sports and its 50-some schools increased IMG College’s total client list to more than 80 across the country, giving it the critical mass it needed to create broad national sponsorship packages that also offered the ability to activate on college campuses and sporting venues.

Industry sources say the highest levels of leadership, from IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne down, have been involved with both of these negotiations to get them closed.

MillerCoors’ 23-school deal isn’t as broad as UPS’s, but it probably was a good bit more complicated.

Beer advertising and sponsorships are so sensitive on college campuses that many schools won’t accept it, even if they’re turning down an attractive revenue opportunity. North Carolina, for example, does not permit any advertising or promotion of alcoholic beverages, even if it’s responsibility messaging.

“There might be a little more openness to the category now,” said Joel Erdmann, athletic director at South Alabama, a school that sells beer at its football, basketball and baseball games. “If it’s done responsibly, it can be a viable method of generating revenue, but you have to be sensitive to how it’s presented. There are cultural issues on every campus that ADs have to take into account.”

To pave the way for MillerCoors to form partnerships with 23 schools that represent 17 states, IMG College and Learfield Sports had to first identify the schools that would allow a beer sponsorship.

“Most of the conversations with IMG, Learfield and the schools was about making sure we’re bringing the right level of responsibility messaging,” Woodward said. “We’re not trying to reach underage drinkers, but we want to do what we legally have a right to do and that’s actively market to legal-age consumers. That was the biggest focus of our discussions.”

Among the more high-profile schools are Arizona State, California, Clemson, Colorado, Penn State and Washington. Several midlevel schools such as Louisiana Tech, Gonzaga, Memphis, Marshall, South Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming are included as well.

Many variables went into the selection of the 23 schools. In some cases, such as a national power like Penn State, MillerCoors weighed the national and regional profile of the school. It also considered the needs of distributors in certain markets. For example, where Miller Lite has an NFL relationship in a market, MillerCoors could provide a college relationship for Coors Light in the same market.

Sales trends for Miller Lite and Coors Light also factored in.

Some of the deals, like Washington’s, are renewals of existing contracts, while other schools either didn’t have a sponsor in the beer category or they’ve switched from a competitor to MillerCoors. More schools could be added this fall, Woodward said.

“You have to have a great understanding with your partner,” said O.D. Vincent, senior associate athletic director at Washington, which has MillerCoors as its domestic partner and a local brewery for its craft beer category. “You understand going in that it’s a very sensitive category and you’ve got to treat it responsibly so that it becomes an enhancement for both brands and something that’s not a drawback to either party.”

MillerCoors will not put university marks on bottles or cans, nor will it use actors to portray college athletes in advertising.

The brewer will put college marks on point-of-sale advertising at retail outlets, but won’t use the marks in its TV advertising.

MillerCoors marks and school logos could appear on co-branded merchandise such as T-shirts, hats, koozies or coolers.

Where MillerCoors uses the college logo, it will use responsibility messaging with it, like “21 Means 21” or “Great Beer, Great Responsibility.”

Woodward didn’t say exactly what percentage of the ads must be responsibility based.

“We’ve had some deals with colleges in the past, mostly around retail activation,” Woodward said. “What’s new is our ability to create a broader platform across the U.S. and the responsibility messaging that we’re bringing to every school.”

In addition to the media buys across TV, radio, Internet and print, MillerCoors will have access to traditional sponsor assets such as hospitality and tickets. Any in-stadium signs will display a responsibility message.

Schools have veto power on any ads it does not approve.

Additionally, MillerCoors is creating a grant program called “Great Plays” that will provide funds for on-campus programs that address alcohol responsibility issues. MillerCoors, which is represented by Genesco Sports Enterprises, has not yet determined how much money it will give annually through the grant program.

With the U.S. Open starting this week in New York, the event’s 25 corporate sponsors will be serving up activation programs around the Grand Slam event.

As always, with a tournament staged in the world’s business capital, financial services sponsors are taking the lead.

JPMorgan Chase, an Open corporate patron since 1982, will be the most prominent on-site sponsor. A new on-site indoor training facility will be renamed for Chase — the Chase Center — during the two weeks of the Open. The second floor of that building will hold a Chase-branded customer experience, including food and beverage service, 3-D video, a gaming area, and opportunities to have a picture taken with the trophy for the women’s singles competition, which JPMorgan Chase also sponsors.

Deanne Pownall, the U.S. Tennis Association’s senior director of partnership marketing, said consumers who are Chase customers will have access to the lounge, and Chase is hoping to entertain 10,000 customers over the 26 sessions of the event. Chase also used event tickets as incentives and for sweepstakes.

USTA (2)
American Express (above) and Chase are creating on-site customer experiences.
American Express, beginning its 18th year as a U.S. Open sponsor, is underwriting a new fan experience center adjacent to the USTA membership booth. The center will offer an analysis of a participant’s tennis serve, with AmEx cardholders getting a 10-minute live lesson from a tennis pro. A digital touchscreen Court Curator by AmEx will allow fans to plan and customize their Open visit. Additionally, an on-site gift-with-purchase program offers fans a $50 gift card, redeemable after the Open, with every $150 AmEx purchase. AmEx is also staging U.S. Open viewing parties in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco.

Online insurer Esurance became a U.S. Open sponsor late last year but has come back with a three-year extension. Esurance is using the Bryan brothers to push its affiliation, and a sweepstakes on-site offers the chance to play against the tennis twins as top prize. A “spotter” program will also offer prizes to fans seen wearing an Esurance-branded tag.

Heineken has renewed for four more years of additional rights and will sponsor the event’s kickoff concert and two on-site taverns. It also will stage a viewing party at a yet-undisclosed location via social media.

Also among beverage sponsors, new partner Moet & Chandon — the event’s first official champagne — will have a branded bar on-site. Gatorade will have on-court exposure and be sold within the venue this year for the first time.

Grey Goose vodka will have an eight-foot-tall “cup” filled with tennis balls and have a contest to guess the number. United Airlines will have a jet fashioned from tennis balls for the same purpose.

Xerox, a new sponsor in the document technology category, is running a business-to-business campaign and will feature a case study of its U.S. Open technology prowess online and on its own site.

Mercedes-Benz is using the Open to showcase its AMG sports car, among others, and it had Roger Federer opening a new Manhattan showroom last week. Mercedes also will have a branded experience on-site and supply hybrid cars at the event.

MetLife isn’t the only insurance brand hoping the NFL will help it cut through the marketing clutter in its category.

USAA, a relatively unknown brand in the hypercompetitive insurance market, quietly signed a four-year deal as the NFL’s new insurance sponsor earlier this month, coming with far less attention than MetLife’s much-talked-about naming-rights deal at the New Jersey home of the NFL Jets and Giants.

San Antonio-based USAA sells insurance and other financial service products to military, retired military and their families. It hopes to use the power of the NFL to celebrate and commemorate military service and differentiate itself within the insurance market.

As such, one of the designations secured by USAA is the NFL’s “official military appreciation sponsor.”

Said Don Clark, USAA executive director of marketing: “We feel like there is a real opportunity to use the NFL and tell people that USAA is a different kind of company. It is all about combining America’s passions for football and the armed services.’’

The NFL is by far USAA’s largest sports investment. The company signed a 10-year deal in 2009 making it presenting sponsor of the annual Army-Navy football game. It also sponsors the service academy teams, and it has backed both the hometown San Antonio Spurs and the MLB Padres in military-heavy San Diego.

While an NFL investment is a greater degree of magnitude, USAA has seen growth in recent years that made it believe that the high price of renting NFL equity was worth the cost. Since altering eligibility requirements in late 2009, USAA through June had added 1 million new customers and 2,500 new employees. With an incremental 35 million people now eligible to buy USAA insurance and other financial products, the company sees the NFL as a way to cut through the noise in what has become a category notable for its increasing marketing clutter.

“It is a noisy [insurance] market, but we like this opportunity to show our eligible universe of 60 million consumers what kind of company we are,’’ Clark said.

IMG is USAA’s sports agency of record. It handled the negotiations and will implement activation.

“USAA liked what they were getting out of Army-Navy, but they were looking for another marketing platform with an even bigger reach to move to the next level,’’ said IMG global consulting chief David Abrutyn.

Pricing for the USAA deal could not be determined. State Farm, the last NFL league insurance sponsor (2006-09) was paying $7 million a year, but its package included presenting sponsorship to the Pro Bowl. However, marketing spending within insurance has escalated pointedly since then. According to Nielsen Co. data, insurance was the fifth-biggest advertising category within sports in 2010, with companies spending $528 million last year, up 30 percent from 2009.

Activation will center on military service appreciation and will see USAA advertise on NFL games with NFL-themed ads. The company is developing an awards program recognizing those in communities doing the most to honor and thank the military.

Club deals with the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins — two military strongholds — have been completed to support the league sponsorship.

MetLife’s new affiliation with the Jets and Giants and the NFL’s new insurance rights holder produce an intriguing conflict: Will the MetLife blimp fly over the 2014 Super Bowl being held in a stadium for which that company has naming rights? Or, since the Super Bowl is a league event, would the company holding league rights get precedence?
One involved party jokingly suggested that given USAA’s military connections, it might not be advisable to engage them in an air battle.

MetLife Stadium CEO Mark Lamping deferred to league policies on the matter. IMG officials said the matter was not discussed during their negotiations. As for USAA? “Our rights are clearly laid out by the NFL,’’ Clark said. “We’re pursuing them and feel really good about what they are.”