In addition to accessing experiences for frequent fliers, airlines frequently use sponsorship to accomplish the following objectives:

Promote positioning as hometown carrier
Airlines often sponsor sports teams, festivals and other beloved properties to tap into the passion of the local community.

“We try to tap into the local passion of a community. We want to be the hometown carrier in local markets, so we want to align with consumer passion points,” said Melissa Millice, Southwest manager of customer engagement.

Promote new routes
Airlines frequently use sponsorship to promote new gates, destinations and international business routes.

Emirates, for example, is using its new partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers to promote its second daily flight from Los Angeles to Dubai, American this year partnered with the Hollywood Bowl to promote two new gates at LAX, while Southwest leverages the Texas Rangers to promote destinations out of Dallas Love Field following the 2014 repeal of the Wright Amendment, a federal law that restricted flights out of the airport.

Reach business travelers
United, American and other carriers are increasingly using sponsorship to reach one particularly profitable customer segment: business travelers.

United, for example, sponsors three property segments of interest to business travelers: golf (PGA Tour); football (eight NFL teams) and personal fitness (United Airlines NYC Half, etc.).

“We serve many customer groups, and it takes a lot of customer segments to make United successful. But our target customer for sponsorship, and specifically the PGA Tour, is high-frequency business travelers,” said Mark Krolick, United Airlines managing director of marketing and product development.

Promote the travel experience
Airlines are increasingly leveraging sponsorship with branded lounges that give consumers a taste of the travel experience.

Delta, for example, sponsors Delta Sky360° clubs in Madison Square Garden, Target Field and other sports and entertainment venues, while American sponsors branded lounges in Chase Field and other venues.

“We created the American Airlines Lounge as an extension of the Admirals Club,” said Cullen Maxey, Arizona Diamondbacks executive vice president of business operations.

Delta in 2015 rolled out the Delta Sky360° Club in Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center, the airline’s first branded lounge at a performing arts venue.

The airline uses the lounge to engage donors and encourage giving, said Alvin Townley, director of corporate philanthropy and veterans programs with The Woodruff Arts Center. Ed Bastian, Delta CEO, serves on the organization’s board.

Engage millennials
Like other categories, airlines are increasingly using sponsorship to build preference among millennials, with a focus on current and future business travelers.

Delta over the past year has placed more focus on leveraging its partnership with Madison Square Garden with social and digital promotions that dangle one-of-a-kind experiences.

“Millennials are more experienced-based (than older travelers), and Delta is using its hospitality assets to gain new customers and retain existing customers,” said Ron Skotarczak, Madison Square Garden Co. executive vice president, marketing partnerships.

Enhance the flight experience
Airlines frequently use sponsorship to enhance the flight experience.

Southwest leverages the Texas Rangers and other pro sports teams with “employee for a day” experiences in which athletes take tickets, make announcements, handle baggage and take on other tasks at local airports.

The athletes also discuss the importance of teamwork with Southwest employees.