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Brand Marketers Shine at the U.S. Open

Last year’s US Open was attended by over 630,000 people—the first held with a live audience since the Covid-19 pandemic halted events around the world. Competitions this year kicked off on August 29 and will run until September 11, and along with lucky in-person fans, upwards of 10 million global spectators are expected to watch matches on a variety of television, streaming and digital platforms. That spells great news for marketers, many of whom will use this beloved outdoor event as an opportunity to reach riveted consumers. Game, set, match: Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 US Open.

Sizzling Sponsors
This year, General Motors’ Cadillac brand took over the spot held by Mercedes as the US Open’s official automotive sponsor. The carmaker inked a multiyear deal with the US Tennis Association (USTA), outlining plans to use the New York event as an opportunity to promote its electric vehicle plans while introducing the Lyriq EV model. Cadillac aims to be fully EV operational by 2030. Onsite at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, Cadillac built a 3,000-square-foot showroom and experiential space that includes the Cadillac ELECTRIQ theater. The campaign also features a 30-second “Be Iconic” spot starring Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu, winner of the 2019 US Open. “As one of the four majors, the U.S Open is one of the most culturally relevant tennis events—with a bold footprint, diverse and inclusive player roster and best-in-class fan base and experiences,” said CMO Melissa Grady Dias. “As the Official Vehicle of the US Open, we are excited to leverage this hallmark event to mark the arrival of the Cadillac LYRIQ and our brand’s all-electric future in an equally bold way.”

Biotech firm Moderna likewise signed on as a US Open sponsor to continue promoting its Covid vaccine while raising awareness about the mRNA science behind the life-saving drug. Part of its push includes ongoing education into the ways mRNA can be used to treat other diseases, including cancer. “We want to establish Moderna as a modern leader changing medicine and pioneering mRNA,” said Chief Brand Officer, Kate Cronin. The health company’s “edutainment” platform relies on entertaining messaging as sugar to help make important medical information go down. Case in point: Moderna’s campaign includes a video of Billie Jean King, the legend who (among other feats) changed the way women in tennis get paid.

Brands Buy In
Along with sponsorships, many partnering brands set up courtside spaces featuring customer perks and unique activations. IBM’s relationship with the US Open spans 30 years and includes the launch of USOpen.org, the website IBM helped create in 1995. In 2009, the tech giant further revolutionized the digital tennis experience by debuting the event’s mobile app. This year’s digital contribution includes an app called Win Factors that helps predict game winners through a varied set of factors—court surface, player rankings, recent performances—meant to further drive fan engagement. “The digital outlet is the way that our partners engage with our fans around the world, as well as within the broadcast,” said Kristen Corio, chief commercial officer for the USTA. “When the draw does come out and more functionality comes to life, you’ll see the ability for sponsors to be more closely associated with different types of content, or with areas of bespoke engagement opportunities for fans.”

From digital innovations to physical comforts, Chase is showing up for customers with perks like access to the Chase Lounge, which offers views of courts 8 to 10, plus free food and drinks. Additional onsite activations include “Automated Tennis Machines” dispensing free swag and over 5,000 mobile charging stations scattered throughout the grounds. For those viewing from home, Chase held sweepstakes with a chance to win tickets to the 2023 tournament. And the financial giant joined USTA’s Return the Serve foundation, offering financial aid and programs to youth tennis clubs.

Serena Williams, aka the GOAT
This year’s US Open is unique for yet another reason: iconic athlete Serena Williams— who won 23 Grand Slams over the course of her three-decade career and is credited with changing the nature of the game—announced her retirement in early August, making this her final US Open event. Brands responded with ads paying tribute to the GOAT, like Gatorade’s nearly two-minute “Love Means Everything” spot narrated by Beyoncé. “When the world writes her down in history, we’ll begin where she started—at love,” says the singer. “No points. Zero score. Just love.” The film further explores Williams’s journey from tennis newcomer to cultural tastemaker, emphasizing the way she especially inspires Black girls and women. “Serena’s immeasurable impact spans far beyond the court,” said Kalen Thornton, Gatorade CMO. “Her unapologetic love for the game, herself, and community, started a movement that inspired millions. In a final nod of tribute, Gatorade’s signature “G” logo turns into an “S” at the end of the spot.

Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra beer brand partnered with Williams last year, featuring the tennis great in two Super Bowl spots. This year’s ad runs as a series of photographs showing Williams excelling in myriad different ways—from winning athletic competitions to singing karaoke to gracing runways as a fashion icon. Throughout, Williams boasts a luminous smile that speaks to the campaign’s tagline, “It’s only worth it if you enjoy it.”

Though Williams will be taking her final tennis bow this year, the 142nd annual US Open will continue next summer and marketers will be primed to capitalize on the many opportunities this global event presents. Until then, game on!