Top 10 Innovative Brands 2014: #7 American Express

The financial services company connects its cardholders with unique experiences through its presence at major events.

A post-screening party for the Tribeca Film Festival’s Keep On Keepin’ On premiere treated card members to a live performance by pianist Herbie Hancock and jazz singer Dianne Reeves.

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for American Express

American Express is a brand that dives into high-profile events, crafting activations to reward its customers and attract new ones at marquee events, such as the Tribeca Film Festival and the U.S. Open, as well as announcing major initiatives during events like the Academy Awards.

The financial services company ranked 90th on the Fortune 500 list in 2013, up from 95th the previous year, with $33 billion in revenue, an increase of 4.5 percent. Last year it also ranked 23rd on Interbrand’s 2013 list of Best Global Brands and 26th on Forbes’s World’s Most Valuable Brands rankings.

Its biggest events focus on insider experiences that it offers card members, often through partnerships in the realms of sports, fashion, and entertainment. During New York Fashion Week in February, it live-streamed Diane von Furstenberg’s show, providing pre- and post-show features for the digital audience. At the U.S. Open last year in suburban Philadelphia, an activation offered golf fans a high-tech swing analysis from golf pros, a fitness assessment from a celebrity trainer, and other interactive experiences. American Express was a major player at this year’s N.B.A. All-Star weekend in New Orleans, hosting the Off the Court Rookie Roundtable panel discussion with rising stars, which was ­live-streamed and answered ­questions fans had submitted via Twitter. It also sponsored a four-part video series showing players attending events during the ­weekend.

American Express also paces its events to keep its presence fresh at festivals such as SXSW. In 2013, it was the presenting sponsor for Made in NY: Austin, a conference for start-up entrepreneurs. This year, it created the Financial Innovation Lab, which looked at ways to help low-income Americans with savings and credit building. It took the potentially dry subject and reinvented it for the digital crowd through an interactive lounge, the American Express #ServeSomeGood Station, which handed out a free “good” of the day to festivalgoers as well as offered music, free Wi-Fi, and refreshments.

In 2013, the company ventured into the venue business, opening Centurion Lounges at airports in Dallas and Las Vegas that include luxe amenities such as a spa, a menu from James Beard Award-winning chefs, and an area designated for families.

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