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US Open: Why its marketing is a grand slam | Viva La Brand

I wasn’t planning on watching night after night of the US Open. Something about it lured me in.

I wasn’t the only one. More than 2.7 million people were glued to their seats to witness Serena Williams’ victory over Danka Kovinic in her farewell tournament – up 279% from last year and the largest opening round audience since ESPN aired the tournament in 2009. Serena’s retirement and excellent marketing drove this massive rise in viewership.

There are many lessons marketers can learn from how brands leveraged the US Open.

Lesson #1: Control your brand. 

‘Brand Serena’ controlled the show. Serena is at the helm of her brand down to the smallest details. She drives the brand image of “the queen of the court”, from her wardrobe to her trademark twirl after a win.

Add an engaging, authentic, and emotional brand story with mom, dad, and sis in starring roles, and it’s no surprise Serena’s net worth is $260 million.

A brand is how your product, company, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. Like Serena, you need to take charge of your brand and consistently remind your stakeholders what you’re about.

Lesson #2: Creativity can be cost effective.

FICO, a leading analytics software company you associate with credit scores and spreadsheets, invested heavily in opponent marketing at the US Open. Akin to companies who buy their competitors’ search terms, FICO opted to sponsor the talent playing against the stars. So, their brand is displayed brightly on center court with millions of eyeballs tuned in.

Note the no frills FICO logo patch on Serena’s opponents’ shirts. I bet the cost per impression was super low.

Lesson #3: Make it a celebration! 

At Wimbledon, spectators are expected to act politely as they respectfully share short applauses for fantastic rallies. If you shout out in the crowd, you can expect a sharp shush from your neighbors.

At the US Open, it’s a party. Surrounding the main courts, fans can sample a host of street-food trucks and shops, and nab a popular Honey Deuce drink (below). Spectators can bop around to different matches at different stadiums or take in multiple matches on the screens outside Arthur Ashe stadium.

Spectators come for the party as much as the tennis.

If you’re going to stage an event, make it memorable, unique, and fun. Your brand’s reputation is riding on it.

The US Open is experiencing record viewership this year. It staged a star-studded party with non-stop, action-packed entertainment. Clever marketers joined in to leverage the event.

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