With the thick of the US Open on full display in Flushing (and up 7% in viewership for the first four days on ESPN2), the annual round of the activation frenzy associated with the USTA staple includes Mercedes-Benz, which serves as an “Official Sponsor” and the “Official Vehicle” of the tournament. The luxury auto brand has been a supporter of tennis since 1996 and continues to actively support the game through a range of initiatives, including its continued commitment to the Laureus Foundation and its activities during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day and through fan experiences on the grounds at the US Open, in addition to providing a fleet of luxury vehicles to transport players, special guests and other VIPs during the tournament and complimentary parking to all 2017 US Open attendees who arrive in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
Cynopsis Sports asked Monique Harrison, Department Head of Brand Experience Marketing at Mercedes Benz USA, about the long association, how its activation has evolved and what new elements fans are seeing this year.
Harrison on partnering with sports events: In line with our “Best or Nothing” mantra, Mercedes-Benz strives to be associated with the top sports, lifestyle and entertainment events throughout the country. For tennis, that’s the US Open without question. We are committed to delivering the most innovative, talked-about sponsorship experiences for consumers across all of our properties.
On elements to a successful partnership: Creativity, flexibility and the opportunity to engage with current and prospective customers in unique and interesting ways. While many of our goals like generating sales leads and cultural conversation around our activations stay the same, we understand that we have to accomplish those goals in different ways for different sports. Fans are incredibly smart and passionate. If we don’t talk (and listen!) to them in ways that are tailored to the activation at hand, they’ll see right through it. Our goal is to always be in-tune with what they want and deliver against it with interesting creative and best-in-class execution.
On the US Open: The US Open is a perfect fit for Mercedes-Benz because of the incredible amount of our customers who are diehard tennis fans. The US Open team has been outstanding partners and provided the flexibility for us to make an impact on-site, in broadcast and through high touch VIP hosting for our top customers. We’ve been specifically proud to offer Mercedes-Benz drivers complimentary parking at all general parking lots, where we park thousands of cars annually. It also gives us a platform to cheer on our longtime brand ambassador Roger Federer as he pursues a historic sixth US Open title!
On evolving activation: Each year, we’ve been able to add something new to our activation and that’s one of our favorite parts of this deal because we’re always surprising and delighting our customers and fans. Our VIP suite and Brand Center have evolved every year to offer new forms of entertainment and product education. This year, our vehicle displays feature some of our most popular vehicles including a GLC300 in Lunar Blue, an AMG C63 S Cabriolet in Diamond White and an S560 in Emerald Green. We’ll also have visibility throughout Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums to reach people tuning in on television. And as always, Mercedes-Benz is the official vehicle fleet used for all player and VIP transportation with more than 145 GLS450’s and 30 Sprinter Vans in use.
On this year’s plans: This year, our VIP guests will experience tennis like never before in the all new, expanded Mercedes-Benz Suite, which accommodates up to 60 guests. The new interior layout and décor feature elements that highlight the luxury and feel of our vehicles. Within the space, there is a bar, catering area and lounge. Additionally, there is also a Racket Wall Activation, which showcases the similarities of tennis rackets and Mercedes-Benz vehicles since the 1800’s.. This upgraded hospitality option allows our 30 area dealers from Long Island to Southern Connecticut to host their customers throughout two spectacular weeks of tennis.
In addition to our VIP hosting changes, 2017 marks an important upgrade for the brand, as we broke ground on a new Mercedes-Benz Brand Center. This brand center includes an interactive fan engagement area called “Ace Your Ride”, which allows consumers to build their own vehicle while hitting balls at their desired model, color , wheels and trim t. They simply hit the ball to the corresponding color, model, etc. that they want and can get a picture with their newly built vehicle to share on social media. It’s a lot of fun and we’re confident the execution will see a lot of foot traffic throughout the tournament.