It’s that time of year again when tennis fans converge on Flushing Meadows to attend the end-of-summer event at the US Open. While tennis is the primary attraction, entrepreneurs can learn a lot about branding and how to strengthen a business from insights at the Open. There are a multitude of lessons to be learned, but we’ve focused on the three we feel are most relevant to entrepreneurs today. The universality of these business insights allows them the opportunity to be implemented across a wide array of industries and markets.
Not Sponsorships, Partnerships
The most glaring business lesson to be learned from the US Open is its use of corporate partners to create long-lasting symbiotic relationships, and not just simply advertising opportunities. Beyond the ads on the court, the event is festooned with messaging through the entire venue. Perhaps the best example of one of these partnerships is Polo. In becoming the official clothing partner of the US Open, Polo has turned every ballboy, chair umpire, and other employee walking the grounds into a brand ambassador. Placement of the Polo logo is ubiquitous throughout the event. Another good example of an advertising partnership is Mercedes Benz. While the Mercedes Benz logo is emblazoned on the nets on the court, there are more creative ways that Mercedes has become the “official vehicle of the US Open”. Every athlete is chauffeured to and from the event in a Mercedes vehicle. Thus, spectators around the world catch a sight of a Mercedes vehicle as soon as the athlete enters the complex and we also see these vehicles drive them home after the event. An even more creative use of sponsorship is seen in a relationship with Chase bank. The Chase logo is etched on the roof of the main court at the US Open facilities. Thus, whenever an overhead view of the facilities is presented on TV Chase has exclusive placement on the screen. In a further twist, the new roof over the main court is also sponsored by Chase and whenever the roof is closed, this is used as an opportunity to mention the brand.
Turning An Event Into a Series
A difficulty for any one-time, annual event is that it is limited in its duration. This used to be true for the US Open as most revenue opportunities could only be seized during the two weeks of the tournament. Aware of this limitation, the US Open committee worked with smaller, local tennis tournaments to expand the US Open from a single event to the “US Open Series”. In doing so, it allowed its corporate advertising partners to be involved in several months of advertising opportunities (to tennis fans) as opposed to a mere two week opportunity under the previous schedule. Moving from a single event to a series also helps to build anticipation towards the US Open itself, with the other smaller events being thought of as “feeder” or “warm-up” tournaments that ultimately culminate in the Big Event.
Creating a Party Like Atmosphere
The managers behind any sporting, media, or entertainment event know that one of the keys to building up hype during an event is to turn the event into a “party like” atmosphere. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways the US Open has achieved this feat, but the most interesting is what they’ve done with the crowd itself. By expanding the sale of alcohol during the games and pushing the events later into the night, the US Open has been good at creating a party like atmosphere in the stands. These enthusiasm is seen quite vividly on the TV coverage and it helps to enhance the desirability of the event.
These business lessons are not limited to tennis or sporting events. The insights the US Open has taught us can be leveraged to any business. Let us know if you think there are other important insights to be drawn from the Open that might be relevant to the entrepreneur community.