American Express is back with the NBA after a five-year absence, but this round, the financial-services company has a big footprint and a focus on offering its cardmembers privileges around NBA games and events.
The company has signed a multiyear partnership that makes it the Official Card of the NBA, USA Basketball, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the NBA Development League (NBA D-League). American Express last had a sponsorship involvement with the NBA from 1995 to 2005.
As the Official Credit Card Partner of the NBA, American Express will give cardmembers entree to regular-season and playoff games, the NBA All-Star, the NBA Draft, and "NBA Games - London 2011," the league's first regular-season games in Europe. Cardmembers will also get into events associated with the WNBA and NBA D-League events.
American Express is launching a similar raft of loyalty programs as an Official Partner of USA Basketball. Cardmembers will have access to exhibition games leading up to the summer 2012 Olympics. Perks include game tickets, access to USA Basketball receptions and chances to meet members of the USA Basketball team and coaching staff.
Emilio Collins, NBA's SVP of global marketing partnerships, says American Express will expand the roster of individual NBA teams it sponsors and the opportunities around team games and events for Amex members.
The company currently sponsors the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Washington Wizards. The league says cardmembers will get loyalty perks, such as tickets, access to NBA-themed hospitality events, behind-the-scenes access and opportunities to meet NBA Legends and players.
American Express' deal with the NBA includes media real estate on NBA channels. But while Collins says the league and company are considering how to execute via co-branded content, a media buy is not a central element of the partnership.
"The program at this point is really focused on getting cardmembers access to tickets, experiences and behind-the-scenes content," says Courtney Kelso, VP, global sponsorships marketing, American Express. Collins adds that the size of the deal is makes AmEx a top-tier sponsor. "They really are taking ownership positions across all of our properties. Only a handful of brands are activating to that extent."