Low-cost carrier focuses on high-profile properties in six core markets.
Given its high-profile positioning in the airline industry, it can be difficult to grasp that JetBlue Airways Corp. is just 13 years old.
And the company’s sponsorship strategy has evolved to support its growth.
While the low-cost carrier once focused on community events to build its profile at the grassroots level, it now focuses on pro sports teams and other properties located in six core markets: Boston; Los Angeles; New York City; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
And the company continues to expand its portfolio. JetBlue in late 2012 signed a partnership with the Barclays Center, home to the NBA Brooklyn Nets. The deal follows an expanded partnership with the NHL Florida Panthers that includes naming rights to the team’s practice facility and sponsorship of the Cats’ practice jersey.
Rick Pineda, JetBlue senior analyst of national sponsorships, spoke with IEG SR about the company’s evolving sponsorship strategy, how it uses the marketing medium to support its New York-centric positioning, and other topics.
Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
IEG SR: JetBlue several years ago decided to take a deep-dive with properties located in key markets. Can you elaborate?
Pineda: We developed a goal in Boston of having an average of 150 flights a day out of Logan Airport by the summer of 2014. We wanted to expand our presence in Boston to fuel that growth. We took a deeper look at our partnerships, including the Boston Red Sox, Boston Marathon and the TD Garden and the Boston Bruins.
Each relationship has grown substantially as we get closer to our goal. When we extended our agreement with the Red Sox we added naming rights to their spring training facility in Florida and added a branded aircraft.
IEG SR: JetBlue focuses much of its sponsorship activity in New York City, the location of its corporate headquarters. How do you gain a point of differentiation from Delta and other carriers that are also trying to build their profile in the Big Apple?
Pineda: We’re proud to be the hometown carrier of New York City. We’re very close to New York City and what is means to be a New Yorker.
We have two major partners in New York City: The Barclays Center and the New York Jets. Look at the DNA of those brands and who they are: They’re progressive, innovative and not as traditional as some of the other teams in the market. They put their customers and fans in front of everything they do, similar to what we do from a brand standpoint.
When we align our brands it makes our New York City hometown message more genuine and authentic.
IEG SR: JetBlue frequently activates sponsorship in Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Can you share an example?
Pineda: When we announced our partnership with the Barclays Center we wanted to bring a taste of the venue into Terminal 5. We worked with the Nets to put a basketball court in the terminal. Consumers had the chance to shoot free throws, win Nets tickets, TrueBlue points and have their photo taken with Nets’ dancers.
It was a great surprise and delight for our customers. It made them aware of our partnership with the Barclays Center and reinforced our great customer service and experiences in our terminal.
IEG SR: Does JetBlue provide charter service for sponsored teams?
Pineda: Unfortunately because of way our equipment is structured we don’t have the capability to charter most of our teams. We do have a charter group that provides services to small college football teams, but we can’t carry the amount of equipment that teams like the Jets or Red Sox require.