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Doesn't Matter If Rangers Or Lightning Lose, Sponsor Chase Already A Winner

Sporting News, June 22, 2015

By Michael McCarthy

NEW YORK — It doesn't matter if the Rangers lose to the Lightning in the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals — or the Lightning lose to the Rangers. There’s one big winner already: sponsor JPMorgan Chase.

The banking giant sponsors both the Madison Square Garden Co. (including the Rangers and New York Knicks) and the Lightning. That means Chase is guaranteed to have a team in Stanley Cup Final for the second season in a row — the Rangers made last year's final, losing to the Kings.

The Chase brand has been getting nice exposure during TV coverage. The bank’s logo is embedded into the ice at both MSG and Tampa’s Amalie Arena, visible to millions of viewers watching game coverage on NBC and NBCSN.

In both cities, Chase is also using smart event marketing tactics to reward existing customers and show other fans that Chase membership has its rewards. During Rangers home games, for example, fans who show their Chase cards at MSG's main Chase entrance on Seventh Avenue get a $10 voucher for food and beverage.

“The Eastern Conference champions are going to be our partner regardless of the outcome. We couldn't be more ecstatic,” said Steve Pamon, head of Sports & Entertainment marketing at JPMorgan Chase.

Meanwhile, Chase is the presenting partner of free outdoor viewing parties for thousands of fans in New York and Florida. One party during last year’s Stanley Cup finals drew 17, 000 fans to New York City’s Bryant Park.

Chase's digital media team also has been giving away tickets and interacting with Rangers and Lightning fans on Twitter. The Lightning lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-1, with Game 4 Friday night in Tampa.

“One of the things I talk about all the time: fans are fans and customers are customers,” Pamon said. “Our goal, whether they’re in Tampa or New York, is to give you a little bit of the same feeling. In the same way we try to connect with passionate Rangers fans, we tried to structure a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning to give the same benefits, perks and media exposure.”

Over the past decade, sports marketing experts questioned the wisdom of companies paying millions of dollars a year to put their names on sports stadiums and arenas.

Who can forget how the Houston Astros ripped the name of their bankrupt naming rights partner, Enron, off their new stadium in 2002? It was quickly renamed Minute Maid Park.

Chase has been at the forefront of a different kind of sports naming rights strategy. Rather than spending most of its money by putting its name on the outside of the building, the company is sponsoring special sections inside the buildings.

When MSG was remodeled from the inside out, Chase put its brand all over the inside of the new building. It sponsors the signature architectural feature of the new MSG — the two Chase Bridges that span the arena from one side to the other. The fancy new 7th Avenue entrance to MSG is named Chase Square. It also targets high-end customers by through '1879 Club presented by J.P. Morgan.'

But it’s the two Chase Bridges, suspended from MSG’s famous spoked ceiling, that have generated the most interested among fans and the press, according to Pamon.

"We were very lucky. In partnership with the Garden, we were able to come up with something new and unique that people hadn't seen before. They have a sky box feel with a completely different view of the ice action. It was a real winning combination. I think it’s going to be replicated in new arena designs around the world. But so far it’s something unique to the Garden. Quite candidly, it’s unique to our brand and value proposition."

After the federal bailout of 2008, the reputation of banks remains poor with many consumers. Chase’s experiential strategy with its MSG partner is a “smart" way to get into live sports without a naming rights deal, says sports marketing expert Jim Andrews of IEG.

“Yes, it is forgoing many of the obvious branding benefits associated with being a naming rights partner, but for a brand having such high name recognition as Chase, especially in the New York market, those benefits would not be as valuable as they would be to a more upstart brand, or one new to the market.”