American Express plans to woo tennis fans this summer with help from superstar Chris Evert. In a statement to reporters, company officials announced the return of American Express's Next Contenders program. The program shares behind-the-scenes access to up-and-coming tennis players in the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Chris Evert will lend her expertise and insight at the Next Contenders website and on her Twitter stream, @ChrissieEvert. Evert told reporters she enjoys the opportunity to bring tennis fans "closer to the action."
The travel services company and credit card issuer also announced another round of funding to help renovate tennis courts across the country. The Fresh Courts program celebrates youth tennis by refurbishing community tennis facilities and presenting local sports leaders with the Fresh Courts Community Leadership Award.
The credit card company will fly all of its local award recipients to New York for this year's men's and women's finals. American Express grants will lead to renewed tennis courts in San Diego, Washington, Cincinnati and New York City. Over the two years of the Fresh Courts program, a total of 26 tennis courts are slated for repair.
Both announcements dovetail with American Express's 18th season as a sponsor of the U.S. Open, the premier tennis event in North America. In addition to enjoying exclusive ticket pre-sales, AmEx card members can redeem their Membership Rewards points for tickets to Arthur Ashe Stadium. Company officials told reporters that additional reward experiences and benefits related to this year's U.S. Open would be announced via the American Express entertainment website.
American Express' enhanced partnership with the U.S. Tennis Association mirrors similar deals involving Discover with the National Hockey League and Visa with the International Olympic Committee. Over the past few years, credit card issuers have used exclusive sports and entertainment sponsorships to differentiate themselves among affluent consumers.