United Serves an Ace With USTA Sweepstakes

A four-year sponsorship agreement between United Airlines and the U.S. Tennis Association kicked off this month with a sweepstakes that has exceeded expectations.

The sweepstakes offers a trip to New York to watch the tournament, which runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9, and to meet tennis celebrities.

A sweepstakes microsite at www.united.com/usopen had 12,000 unique visitors, 7,000 of whom entered the sweeps, during the promotion's first week.

Consumers can sign up for the sweeps at the microsite or at kiosks at four New York and New Jersey airports. Although the online and offline sweeps initially targeted New York residents, United has expanded the reach with counter cards and tent cards promoting the sweepstakes on its flights to and from the New York/New Jersey airports and with an advertisement in its in-flight magazine, Hemispheres.

“Tennis hits our target wonderfully: the road warriors and global travelers,” said Julie Koewler, marketing manager, sponsorship at United Airlines.

United first promoted the sweepstakes with push e-mails sent to 75,000 names taken from the USTA's membership list and from United's My Mileage Plus loyalty program and United vacations.com.

Offline advertising included print ads in The New York Times, USA Today and People.

“The USTA list was a huge thing for us. … We saw a huge increase in the entries when that e-mail went out,” said Jeannie Goldstein, vice president of sports marketing at Chicago-based agency, Frankel.

“At that point, since we hadn't sent out e-mails,” Koewler said, “the response was predominantly from the New York Times ad and the USTA push.”

United executives were surprised by the strong online response to the sweeps because a similar online/offline sweepstakes promoting tickets to see the New York Knicks did not go as well.

“In one week, we're already at 66 percent of the total entries we received for the Knicks program,” Koewler said. “We learned a lot from that. We did print campaigns and aligned ourselves with the Knicks during games, but it was almost kind of counterproductive. It was a much broader audience, whereas the U.S. Open is far more targeted.”

In future Knicks promotions, Koewler said, United will consider other media, such as the Internet, to promote campaigns.

“It's hard to break through the clutter of other [TV] spots touting their affiliation with the Knicks,” she said.

Meanwhile, United's U.S. Open microsite uses photographs of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, adding a moving, panoramic view, and close-ups of the seats of players that winners will meet: Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Stan Smith.

“We really wanted to capture the fact that United gives you access to the event … and how close the seats are to the court,” Goldstein said

The sweepstakes' entrance form requires the usual: name, address, day phone and e-mail address, but also requires travel information, such as “Indicate the airline you fly most often with and the airline you fly second most often with,” and “Would you select United for your next airline trip?”

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