American Express Creates a New York-Themed Playground at the US Open

Tennis fans can "spray paint" a digital wall and get makeup touch-ups

amex logo activation
American Express created a game called Borough Ball celebrating the five boroughs of NYC. American Express
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Attendees of the U.S. Open—the sole Grand Slam tournament to take place stateside—know that tennis is hardly the only attraction at the event.

During the two-week-long tournament, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York is transformed with pop-up restaurants and tennis-specific shops, plus a bevy of brand activations throughout the complex.

American Express has long been one of those brands—the credit card company has been a U.S. Open sponsor for 26 years. And again this year, the American Express Fan Experience returns for the duration of the Open, as well as two lounges exclusive to cardmembers including the Centurion Lounge, a preview of the space set to open at JFK’s Terminal 4, which is undergoing a remodel.

Inside American Express's U.S. Open activation
American Express

The Fan Experience is the epicenter of American Express’s U.S. Open activations, with a number of activities and stations for fans to explore. Visitors can play a life-size game of pong called Borough Ball, where they can choose one of five themes, each representing one of New York’s boroughs, to play in. They can create a “song” of sorts at the Rally Remix station. There’s a virtual mural that fans can “spray paint.” There’s a mock subway car that runs a video inside showcasing the contactless OMNY technology being rolled out across the city’s subway system. Anyone can enter the experience—not just cardmembers.

“Our Fan Experience is really not just embracing the U.S. Open, but embracing the U.S. Open’s hometown of New York City,” said Bess Spaeth, American Express’s svp of global brand and experiences. “We’re doing a lot to bring New York City into the fan experience and mirroring a lot of the really famous sights and sounds of New York.”

Upstairs, above the Fan Experience, is the cardmember lounge, where American Express members can get makeup and hair touchups from Glamsquad, or sip a frozen version of the Honey Deuce, the Open’s signature cocktail—the lounge has one of just three on-site machines that make the frozen beverages. And in the main Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Centurion Lounge is open for platinum cardmembers. It includes a “speakeasy” covered in tennis-themed art, created especially for the experience.

Inside American Express's Centurion Lounge at the U.S. Open
American Express

Many of these New York-centric experiences are new additions to the Fan Experience; Spaeth said the team is sure to create a mix of fan favorites with “fresh and new” ideas to keep it exciting for guests who come every year. In creating this year’s experience, she added that the American Express team wanted to lean into these elements of the Open through interactivity, particularly given that the Open is a sporting event.

“We were really focusing in on our customers’ passion around tennis, and then thinking about how do we add to that,” she said. “And we believe that one of the ways in which we are doing that is giving them something to experience, something active, and create a memory in really unique and different ways.”

Inside American Express's U.S. Open fan experience
At the American Express Fan Experience

After over a quarter-century of activating at the Open, Spaeth said the event remains as important an event as ever to the brand.

“We know that when our customers engage in them, they’re more loyal to the brand, they’re more engaged with American Express,” she said. “Even people who aren’t yet card members, when they hear about these events, we know that those folks are more likely to become part of members down the line.”

She added: “The hope is that our fans partake in the experiences and really leave thinking that American Express just made their U.S. Open experience that much better, and really had their back.”

American Express is focusing on cashless payments at the U.S. Open
American Express
@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.