October 20, 2009: Delta Air Lines said it has signed a long term, multi-year deal with Madison Square Garden in New York to become the official carrier of "the world's most famous arena" and the first “signature partner” in the renovated Garden, which is scheduled for completion in 2012. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The alliance continues Delta's strategy of partnering with high-profile sports teams and venues in New York, including deals signed this year to become the official airline of both the New York Mets and New York Yankees. As part of the deal with MSG, Delta will have "significant presence" across all MSG properties, replacing Continental as the official carrier of New York Knicks, Rangers and WNBA's Liberty; as well as a "top-level partner" of MSG's extensive college basketball schedule and concert series. The New York-centric deals have been activated in conjunction with the airline's recently detailed plans to create a domestic hub at LaGuardia Airport and adding more than 30 international routes at JFK.
The Delta alliance with MSG comes at a time when airlines are trying to boost their visibility and stature amidst a decline in the number of flights being scheduled and the number of passengers now flying. The Air Transportation Association, which oversees the major domestic-based carriers, said that the number of flights and total seats being made available in the U.S. is projected during the fourth quarter of 2009 to be the lowest since the months following 9/11, when most airlines drastically cut flights.
Delta's strategy involving sports and entertainment deals extends well beyond New York. The carrier already has alliances with such pro teams as MLB's Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. MSG is owned by New York-based Cablevision Systems Corp., and the deal will now give Delta presence at Cablevision properties including the Chicago Theatre and Boston's Wang Theatre; and New York venues that attract both domestic and international visitors including Radio City Music Hall, The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden and the Beacon Theatre.
The deal will be activated on a multitude of platforms, including MSG TV networks, radio and Web sites, MSG arena signage and during games. Delta will also support with marketing covering its airline properties and Web site. To help unveil the partnership, Delta and MSG has initiated a promotion offering seats at Madison Square Garden venues and on Delta flights. (Details available here.) Delta and MSG had a launch party outside Madison Square Garden on Oct. 20 that included legendary New York captains as Willis Reed from the Knicks and Mark Messier from the Rangers.
Despite the partnership, Knicks, Rangers and other players themselves will not be on board Delta during road trips as most pro teams travel via charter flights arranged as part of deals made by their respective leagues, deals made by their respective owners with charter companies or, in decreasing numbers, by private jet. However, the synergy here is unique in that Delta owns Northwest, and the NBA currently has a deal under which the majority of its teams travel via Northwest charter flights during the season.
“This historic relationship was a perfect match bringing together the world’s largest airline and the world’s most famous arena," Scott O’Neil, president of MSG Sports, said in a statement. "We look forward to helping Delta establish an even greater presence in New York by becoming the official airline of our professional sports teams . . . and our iconic venues"
Among other airlines currently active in the sports sponsorship category are:
• JetBlue: Marketing deals include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and the Boston Marathon.
• American Airlines: Has aligned with the Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium. The airline also has naming rights at American Airlines Center in Dallas and American Airlines Arena in Miami.
• Continental: Has lost the New York Knicks and Rangers but has sports deals that still include the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Indians, Houston Astros and Texans, the U.S. Tennis Open and the ING New York City Marathon.
• United: Current deal as official airline of the U.S. Olympic Committee includes the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London. It also has naming rights at United Center in Chicago.
• US Airways: Has alliances with the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Flyers.
• AirTran: The low-far carrier based in Orlando, which is receiving national attention via official status with the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Boston Bruins, Milwaukee Brewers, Orlando Magic and the Pro Football Hall of Fame; and such marketing spokespersons as NFL quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Matt Ryan, teenage tennis star Melanie Oudin and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick.