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Amid that environment, Heineken has been a true champ for the USTA. Yes, Heineken maintains a massive presence at the U.S. Open itself, ranging from its ubiquitous signage at center court to a 23,000-unit hat giveaway this year to a "Red Star Cafe," that moved a massive amount of the beer while highlighting a central icon of Heineken's brand identity. But it is Heineken's ability to flex marketing resources outside typical net-o-file circles that has meshed with the USTA's designs on a wider, younger audience. Key to that imperative has been activities surrounding Heineken's relationship with McEnroe. The former ace's career as a tennis player may predate younger members of the demo, but his ongoing role as a visible, and voluble, on-air commentator and analyst has maintained his status as one of the game's most identifiable personalities, exceeding even that of such current players as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
Over the past two years, McEnroe has created original tennis art that has been applied to point-of-purchase displays (including, this year, on a life-size standee) and on T-shirts sold via POP, with the proceeds going to The John McEnroe Foundation. Characteristically, McEnroe has seemed to enjoy pushing the envelope, allowing Heineken to use such slogans as "A true work of art by a real piece of work" to promote the effort. Such supermarket-oriented promos are particularly important for Heineken, which for the past few years has made off-premise chains a key focus of its future growth, and also for the USTA for the visibility such displays can garner.
The company has also altered its programs toward a more populist end. Heineken and the USTA two years ago inaugurated the Star Award, named for the brand's red star icon, to honor the "gutsiest" player of the year. But in each year, the effort has been augmented to increase its reach: a vote by the tennis press in 1996 was replaced by a consumer vote via 900-line last year, and then further democratized by a switch to a free 800-number this year. The award of the trophy this year to Spain's Carlos Moya, who made it to the semifinals after coming from behind to defeat Michael Chang, was televised on CBS.
"They're a terrific sponsor and partner for us," said J. Pierce O'Neil, USTA marketing director. "They truly understand the marketing power of the U.S. Open in particular, and tennis in general, and are helping us to position it as a relevant, fun and important part of the U.S. sports landscape."
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