American Express Renews Corporate Sponsorship Deal with NBA

Company Will Put More Focus on Digital Activation

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American Express has renewed its deal to serve as the official credit card of the NBA.

While the company would not comment on the size of the deal, Amex Director of Sports Marketing Michele Carr said the league-wide corporate sponsorship has been extended "for the foreseeable future." Amex will take a slightly different approach this time, she said, focusing more on digital marketing.

"We have committed to really exploring digital activation. Our plans are still in the works but I think that will be our focus. To figure out how to bring people closer to the game through digital experiences," she said.

To make that a reality, Amex will integrate its league-wide advertising and marketing initiatives with its individual sponsorships of NBA teams. Amex is in business with half a dozen NBA clubs: LeBron James' world champion Miami Heat; Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers, plus the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.

"We'll figure out how those six teams, and our league relationships, come to life in a really big way for our customers and prospective customers," said Ms. Carr.

Amex's sports-marketing strategy has revolved around the NBA and U.S. Open golf and tennis tournaments. But in what could be good news for Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and other sports, Amex is developing a "short list" of other sports and leagues it may sponsor, said. Ms. Carr.

Amex's sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament could be a marketing roadmap for how the company plans to advertise to new and prospective customers inside and outside NBA arenas.

During the New York-based tournament, Amex focused heavily on digital and experiential marketing. It offered "TrendCast," within the official U.S. Open app, which allowed fans to track the hottest developing stories on Twitter.

On-site, it staged the "U.S. Open American Express Fan Experience" for the third year in a row.

Fans attending matches could get free swing analysis from tennis pros -- card members could reserve their lessons in advance. Amex offered autograph sessions with players and a full-size "Fan Court" offering free clinics to kids and adults.

The NBA declined to comment. Amex has served as official credit card of the NBA since 2010.

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