Mercedes-Benz USA has signed a four-year deal with the U.S. Tennis Association that makes Mercedes-Benz the "Official Vehicle of the U.S. Open" and the "Presenting Sponsor of the U.S. Open Men's Singles Championship." Mercedes replaces Lexus, which was sponsor from 2005 to 2009.
The deal includes vehicle displays at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., branding on USOpen.org and advertising buys on CBS, ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel.
The Montvale, N.J.-based automaker will have on-court signage for all televised men's singles matches and side court signage on the majority of tennis courts, including Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand, per the company.
The automaker also becomes a sponsor of Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, the interactive tennis and entertainment festival that serves as a kickoff event for America's Grand Slam tournament. The U.S. Open, which will take place Aug. 30-Sept. 12 next year, brings in some 720,000 fans to the Queens Borough venue each year.
Lisa Holladay, manager for brand experience marketing at Mercedes-Benz, says the partnership was the result of good timing, with Lexus' program ending and Mercedes wanting in. "The event is in our back yard, and it has the right target for us: 700,000 qualified prospects and customers who attend," she says.
She says the company has not determined whether it will create tennis-themed ads. "The partnership starts in January, but the sponsorship is almost a year out, and it happened pretty quickly. There is a large media component, but we don't know if we'll do specific creative to go along with it."
Holladay says that among the vehicles the company will show at the five to seven displays it will have on site are the forthcoming SLS AMG gullwing, and the E-Class Cabrio convertible.
Mercedes this year also became "Official Patron of The PGA of America," wherein Mercedes had a "PGA Performance Center" facility to promote the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Per Holladay, Mercedes-Benz' event strategy is focused on ownership of "pinnacle" properties. "Partnership marketing is an important way of using dollars strategically to target qualified customers through top events. That's how we look at every property," she says. Mercedes has title sponsorship of global Fashion Week events, and last year signed a deal to be sponsor of several PGA pro golf events.
The roster of U.S. Open sponsors includes Canon, Evian, Heineken, IBM, Chase and J.P. Morgan, as well as Continental Airlines, Amex, and Polo/Ralph Lauren.