Events / Sponsorship


U.S. Open sponsors' activations focused on fan motives

Author: Monica Truong-N, University of San Francisco

Posted: October 12, 2015

Sports events are the biggest marketplace for sponsorship deals. The U.S. Open, one of the four tennis Grand Slams, is no exception. For events with individual athletes rather than teams, the focus shifts from creating an identity through by branding a team to creating an experience where the fan can feel connected to the event itself and more specifically, the history being made by the legendary players that are competing. Rather than appealing to a fan through group affiliation, something not often associated with individual sports, U.S. Open on-site sponsors motivate their fans by offering a sense of escape, “the opportunity to focus for a short period of time on the event and put daily difficulties behind them” (Pons, Giroux, and Mourali, 2014, p. 28).

JP Morgan Chase decided to focus its marketing efforts around Serena Williams’ opportunity to complete a calendar Grand Slam with a victory at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. In order to allow the fans to feel as though they are a part of history, there was an area set up for fans to pose in a photo in which appeared as if they are interviewing the tennis star herself. Additionally, JP Morgan Chase promoted “the hashtag #MasterTheOpen” on social media (Silverman, 2015, p. 3). This appeal through the “vicarious achievement” that the attendees could possibly share with Serena Williams drew fans into documenting their experience. Pons, Giroux, and Mourali (2014) define vicarious achievement as “the sense of achievement a sport event consumer may feel when the event unfolds as he expects or when his favorite team performs well” (p. 29). Even though many of these tennis fans may not specifically be Williams’ fans, they can feel as though history is unfolding before their eyes. By taking a picture of that, they are becoming a part of that moment.

Additionally, American Express also featured an on-site activation that was a “high-tech fan experience [built] around Maria Sharapova.” In this area, fans would “get the chance to play a virtual-reality game in which they try to return Sharapova’s serves and shots” (Silverman, 2015). At an event that has “heavy consumption,” the goal was to balance out media’s strong presence by giving the attending fans a better view and experience than they would receive from watching television feed of Sharapova’s matches. Funk and Lock (2014) state that events of heavy consumption are those “where both frequent live attendance and media consumption are present” (p. 38). Additionally, AmEx expanded their advertisements even off the grounds of the tennis event by having an ad presence at the Willets Point subway station, thus supporting fans who make the effort to get out in person to the event (Silverman, 2015).

To emphasize that this event was an escape for the fans from their daily lives, Emirates’ airline appealed to all fans that saw themselves as “world traveler[s].” Their activation site included booths that make it possible for fans to “receive a photo of themselves at a location of their choice” (Silverman, 2015). This helped fans connect with the idea that they can go anywhere in the world to watch tennis and experience many different cultures through these travels. This advertisement not only appealed to a sense of escape, but also motivates the fans through group affiliation of wanting to join the elite class of world-traveling tennis fans.

Lastly, Silverman (2015) argued that the U.S. Open appealed to the demographic that often associates with these high-end brands, stating that “The Open… offers brands access to a relatively well-educated and affluent demographic.” This exclusivity lead to a higher desire by companies to want to advertise at the U.S. Open since they know that the fans who are there possess the “economic” means and “socio-demographic” backgrounds that make them more likely purchase the products (Pons, Giroux, and Mourali, 2014, p. 24).



Funk, D. C. & Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sports Business (pp. 37-50). New York: Routledge.

Pons, F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Why Are Sport Event Consumers So Special? In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sports Business (pp. 21-26). New York: Routledge.

Silverman, A. (2015, August 31). JPMorgan Chase builds its Open around Williams. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(20). Retrieved from

About Monica Truong-N, University of San Francisco

Monica recently graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies and a minor in the German language, and is currently in the Sport Management graduate program at the University of San Francisco. While at UCLA, she worked as student manager for the Division One Men’s Tennis, Men’s Water Polo and Women’s Water Polo programs. Her plans include becoming an agent, specializing in tennis and soccer. This article is an edited version of a paper Monica prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage of Dustin Brown at 2014 US Open (Tennis) - Tournament by Steven Pisano. Accessed via Creative Commons license.