Brands engage tennis fans

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Serena Williams
Serena Williams

Several sponsors of this year's US Open tennis tournament are using direct marketing tactics to engage, reward and attract consumers.

Such marketers include Continental Airlines and insurance company Esurance, which have launched sweepstakes tied to the tournament. Meanwhile, American Express has netted some of the sport's biggest names to serve its brand to loyal customers and other tennis fans.

The Grand Slam tennis tournament begins August 30 and runs through September 12.

To encourage consumers to become fans of its brand on Facebook, Continental Airlines is giving consumers the chance to win two tickets to attend the tournament, which is scheduled to take place at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. It launched its promotion August 12.

"We'll look at the increase in number of fans and the engagement our fans have with our [Facebook] page. Facebook Insights provides a good overall view of our fan data," said Colleen Aranda, interactive advertising manager at Continental. "We will also use Facebook Ad Management to gauge the effectiveness of Facebook advertising."

Esurance has created the "Best of Both Worlds" sweepstakes for the tournament. Consumers can enter to win a tennis vacation for two in Scottsdale, AZ, including three nights at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, up to six hours of tennis lessons and $1,000 spending money. A Wilson Portable Ball Machine and two Wilson BLX tennis rackets are also a part of the prize package.

Esurance collects a consumer's name, e-mail address, telephone number, as well as marital status and the range of annual income, when they enter the contest. Entrants can also opt in for future information from the direct-to-consumer insurance company. Participants can enter online or on-site at the US Open.

Darren Howard, VP of marketing at Esurance said that the company's target audience recently shifted from single males to married and partnered couples, and that the ad campaign reflects that shift.

"The ads are coupled with a new brand identity," he said. "As the highest attended annual sporting event, the US Open was the ideal venue to showcase this new brand identity."

American Express, meanwhile, has created a tournament website, NextContenders.com, to give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be a US Open contender.

The multimedia site also encourages consumers to download the US Open iPhone app and sign up for text message and e-mail alerts from the tournament. It also has an e-commerce section, where consumers can buy US Open apparel and products and buy tickets.

"We are working with rising tennis stars Sam Querrey, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki and Melanie Oudin to bring card members and tennis enthusiasts a deeper insight and fresh perspective into the game they love," said Jessica Igoe, director of sponsorship marketing at American Express.

American Express is also leveraging its weekly e-newsletter to card members to promote ticket sales. It is also sending e-mails to US Tennis Association subscribers to promote its activities and offers for fans who plan to attend the annual Grand Slam tournament.

The financial services company is also conducting in-person CRM through its on-site booth. In previous years, American Express operated guest information booths for on-site questions and a concierge service. However, this will be the first year that representatives leave the booths to interact with card members.

Sponsors are using a range of other marketing tactics throughout the tournament. Continental Airlines, for instance, will tweet about the games. American Express has, for the second year in a row, partnered with the United States Tennis Association and IBM to create the official iPhone application for the open.

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