The U.S. Open is the largest annually-attended sporting event, with 700,000 people attending, and millions watching worldwide: a great brand-building opportunity. What are the 10 key things to watch from this year's event?
1. Some brands still think of communication as transmission
Really? Yes. Just take a look at the on-court sponsors: JP Morgan, Citizen and Emirates. There are no visible marketing activities to inject meaning into the bald awareness-build, which means missed opportunities. At least Mercedes-Benz has significant weight of TV advertising and some interesting use of RFID (see below) and Chase has a witty campaign to launch its mobile app using John McEnroe and Andy Roddick. But all these brands need to do more. Read on.
2. IBM looking to own Big Data
The USTA has been using mobile, social, analytics and cloud for a while, but the IBM partnership has upped the ante this year to help people understand and engage with the action, with IBM communicating heavily behind the Big Data message. IBM analyzes 41 million data points from 8 years of Slam play, visualizes meaningful patterns and creates engaging apps. Trendcast is the most striking of the new mobile and social apps: it aggregates and filters social media comments, identifies key trends, engages with fans and offers sponsorship opportunities for the USTA. Another new piece of analytics is Keys to the Match, which identifies three actions players can take to increase their chances of winning.
3. Heineken and branded experiences
Would you be able to make the hustle and bustle of New York's Union Square go silent? Heineken's 'Quiet Please' event challenged people to sit in an umpire's chair and do exactly that. One person managed to do it -- take a look on YouTube to see how. Check out the brand's Crack the U.S. Open Instagram mosaic with embedded codes that Digiday labelled, " a new kind of scavenger hunt." And if you get tickets to the Open, you'll have a choice between the Red Star Café and Heineken House, featuring a culinary partnership with NY eatery No. 7 Sub.
4. Moet blurring physical and digital
Event-based digital activations have exploded this year, with everything from robots to world record-breaking challenges. One of the most eye-catching was how Moet has given #MoetMoment physical presence. How it works: you go to the Moet stand and take a photo of yourself in the life-sized Instagram frame in front of your favorite backdrop. Next, upload the picture, tagging it to enter into a draw to win Moet-brand glasses. The brand also buys geo-tagged promotional tweets and Facebook ads to amplify the social push.
5. Fashion brands crossing over into sport
Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Lacoste have made the move into fashion apparel for years now. We have also seen a new Stella McCartney range this year in partnership with Adidas, sported by Caroline Wozniacki. But the intriguing clothing trend is in the opposite direction, as high street brands with no sporting credentials start to clothe tennis stars: it started with Uniqlo and Novak Djokovic, and now we have H&M and Tomas Berdych.
6. Amex and Mercedes flirting with RFID
Amex is using RFID for its MyOpen Pass program: you are given a wristband with an embedded chip that collects data about your journey around Fan Experience, and later you receive an e-mail detailing your performance. Mercedes has introduced dashboard RFID-based parking tags, containing a scan-able barcode at Mercedes' Brand Center, where you can win tennis gear and merchandise.
7. Nike not so hot
Nike used to be so good at creating wow experiences. Remember when they converted an old factory in a tough area of Paris during the French Open a couple years ago? They laid out tennis courts, hired a world-class local DJ and got Rafael Nadal to turn up and play with the local talent. We've seen nothing approaching that at this year's U.S. Open. The best Nike has come up with is a staged appearance by Michael Jordan at Roger Federer's first-round match.
8. E-surance and social roaming
Players sign autographs at E-surance's booth. Calls to action are posted on Twitter, giving at-home viewers the chance to talk to players via tweets. The lucky ones get to video chat via webcam. All backed up by the TV campaign using the Bryan brothers and their roaming video-conferencing robots on the streets of New York.
9. Starwood & Heineken activation
Looking to ramp up awareness and membership of its Preferred Guest loyalty program, Starwood Hotels is experimenting with an on-line game and microsite. And Heineken, again, is innovating - challenging fans at its Open booth to set tennis-related world records, upload to recordsetter.com and win tickets for the men's singles final.
10. Multi-sensory inspiration
And lastly, Patrick Gunderson -- an IBM developer -- is collaborating with James Murphy (aka LCD Soundsystem) to create the authentic soundtrack of the U.S. Open. Murphy will use the algorithms developed by Gunderson to encode a match's action, along with weather data and crowd engagement, and turn these into music by ascribing musical values to each one: "we're going to generate almost 400 hours' worth of music."