American Express will allow fans at next week’s U.S. Open to feel as if they are players walking through the locker room and onto the court in the latest and most advanced activation the event has planned. The four-minute experience is called the “Pro Walk.” The credit card company last year at its 20,000-square-foot AmEx Experience pavilion allowed fans to don VR googles and hit with Maria Sharapova. VR is gone this year, replaced by what AmEx is calling “immersive reality,” and a “mixed media” experience.
The company built a replica of the players’ locker room, about 18-by-20 feet, where as many as four fans can enter and meet holograms of former champs Monica Seles and Pete Sampras. They then can walk down a separate hallway where photographers appear to be shouting at them and taking their pictures. They then walk out into Arthur Ashe Stadium, new roof closed, with their names announced as competitors. The hologram technology was supplied by World Stage Productions, and the immersive technology making the hallway and stadium seem real was supplied by MediaMonks. Momentum is AmEx’ marketing agency.
AmEx will advertise the Pro Walk on the No. 7 train that runs to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from Manhattan. Ads will feature Seles and Sampras, as well as active U.S. player Taylor Fritz. The Pro Walk is available to all fans, not just card members. Last year, 8,000 fans hit with Sharapova in VR, but AmEx expects a higher figure this year because more than one person at a time can experience Pro Walk.
Over 200,000 people in total passed through the AmEx Experience, which includes other interactive features, a card member lounge, and a tennis court for clinics. AmEx VP/Global Partnerships Deb Curtis told reporters yesterday that the card company feels a responsibility to “up the ante” every year with its pavilion and “elevate the fan experience.”