As Rafael Nadal and company bring their tennis whites to the U.S. Open, spectators and athletes will give an estimated $720 million boost to the metro New York City area, far surpassing what the most-watched sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl, is expected to bring next year to the region.
The U.S. Open kicked off on Monday at the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City.
Its two-week time frame is the main reason why the tennis tournament will generate more economic activity than the $430 million the Super Bowl is expected to bring when it comes to MetLife Stadium at East Rutherford, N.J., in February. The Super Bowl is a one-game, one-weekend affair.
The U.S. Open is a signature tennis event as the fourth of four grand slam events, or majors, in the sport, says Stephen Greyser, business of sports professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School.
"While everyone knows it's a grand slam event, it's the only tennis grand slam in the U.S.," says Greyser. The Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon are the other Grand Slam events.
The U.S. Open is one of the longest signature events in the world, following the World Cup, which takes place in different stadiums within one country.
The biggest driver of the U.S. Open's economic engine is that, like soccer's World Cup, it's a global sporting event that attracts international tourists and their dollars, says Chris Widmaier, managing director of communications for the U.S. Tennis Association.
On average, about 40 percent of fans and patrons who come to the U.S. Open are from outside the New York metropolitan area, says Widmaier. Those visitors often stay for days and invest in hotel stays, communication, restaurants and other services. Of that percentage, about a third of those visitors are international tourists.
Greyser notes that the length of the event gives sponsors continued visibility in not just sponsoring the championship event broadcasts. Three broadcast partners are participating in this year's U.S. Open: CBS Sports, ESPN, and the Tennis Channel.
Many of the sponsors are business-to-business firms, or companies that have business clients, including JPMorgan, American Express and IBM. Sporting event sponsorships typically include tickets and VIP seating for companies and their guests, such as prospective clients.
"From a business of sports point of view, this is a big deal, even within the genre of tennis. It's a very different kind of thing if we were talking about some other sport," Greyser said.
Business sponsorship interest is partly why the U.S. Open has a high-end market audience.
"The market audience comes with the sport, but the high-end sponsors come with the event's length and visibility over the two-week period and the opportunity to entertain guests," Greyser said.
Another boost to the metropolitan area is the estimated 13,000 seasonal jobs created for the tournament, Widmaier says.
The U.S. Tennis Association hopes that its plans to build two new stadiums from spring 2014 to 2018, plus a roof on the Arthur Ashe main stadium, will spark an even larger boost to the economy.
"I think you're going to start seeing even more positive effects on U.S. Open community," he said.
Robert Tuchman, president of sports and entertainment marketing company Goviva, based in New York City, said most of his clients entertaining through the U.S. Open are local companies who are entertaining their own customers.
Tuchman said his clientele are planning to spend more on all-inclusive events during the Super Bowl in 2014, including hotel stays and restaurants, than on day trips to the U.S. Open.
Tuchman declined to name his clients but said they are mostly Fortune 1000 tech and auto companies.
With the high cost of living in New York, companies are spending 75 to 100 percent more on their Super Bowl entertainment plans for 2014 than other years, Tuchman said.
Some companies began planning for the Super Bowl in New York City as much as three years ago, he said.
"This summer is extremely busy with the New York Super Bowl. It's great but the issue is it's very expensive."