Tuesday
Oct062009

Us Airways Signs Marketing Deal With NHL's Frequent Flyers

October 6, 2009: In an effort to put a positive spin on their operation during difficult times, US Airways has signed a sponsorship agreement with the Philadelphia Flyers making the carrier the official airline of the NHL team. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Flyers said they would hold a celebration with the airline’s 6,000 Philadelphia-based employees later this month. Marketing support for the alliance will include in-game promotions and contests for fans and showcase rink-side dasher board signage at Flyers home games at the Wachovia Center. US Airways will also have client hospitality opportunities at Flyers home games.

US Airways also has deals with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals. A unique conflict of interest: In Phoenix, the NBA's Suns play at US Airways Center, but the team's official airline is Southwest (which also is the official airline of the NBA).

The deal comes at a time when US Airways, like the industry itself, is handling fewer passengers and dealing with lower revenue. The airline said the percentage of its seats filled with paying passengers in September was 79.3%, down 0.8% from a year ago, that passenger traffic fell 1.6% and that passenger revenue was down 15% from a year ago.

There might be more deals between US Airways and Philadelphia sports teams and destinations down the road as Comcast-Spectacor, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company that owns the Flyers, also owns the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League; the two arenas in which their teams play, the Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum; four Flyers Skate Zone community ice skating and hockey rinks and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

“US Airways’ hub located right here in Philadelphia provides both of us with numerous synergistic opportunities to maximize our brands," Peter Luukko, Comcast-Spectacor president, said in a statement.  "Additionally, thousands of Flyers fans will see US Airways’ images on our dasher boards at the Wachovia Center, and millions of hockey fans will see the US Airways brand on Comcast SportsNet and on other national and international broadcasts of Flyers hockey.”

The deal does not necessarily mean that the Flyers actually will fly US Airways during the season. Like other pro franchises, the team uses a charter airline to transports players, coaches and equipment across the U.S. and into Canada during road trips. Never the less, airlines such as US Airways have been anxious to align with sports teams for the publicity and the opportunity to reach fans and consumers.

“The Flyers represent a rich history and so does US Airways in Philadelphia," Andrew Nocella, US Airways’ svp-marketing and planning, said in a statement. "Between our extensive network, our trans-Atlantic gateway and a strong employee base, the partnership gives us an opportunity to show our commitment to the Philadelphia community and Flyers fans.”

The US Airways-Flyers alliance comes at a time of heavy sports sponsorship activation in the airline category. Among the most involved are:

    • JetBlue, whose marketing deals include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Orlando Magic and the Boston Marathon.
    • American Airlines, which 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.
    • Delta, which is the official carrier of such teams as the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings.
    • Continental, whose sports deals include the Cleveland Browns and Indians, Houston Astros, Rockets and Texans, New York Knicks, Giants and Rangers, the U.S. Tennis Open and the ING New York City Marathon.
    • United, whose 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.
    • AirTran, the low-cost carrier is headquartered in Orlando but has its largest hub at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. AirTran marketing partners include the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts, as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; the NHL's Boston Bruins; and MLB's Milwaukee Brewers; and the NBA's Orlando Magic. AirTran also has marketing deals with such athletes as Danica Patrick, teen tennis star Melanie Oudin, former baseball all-star pitcher Tom Glavine and NFL quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Donovan McNabb.

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