Once again, Chase Manhattan is serving up corporate dollars at the U.S. Open.
In an effort to build on its upscale image, Chase has thrown its sponsorship arms around this year's tournament, the premier American tennis event that starts today in Flushing Meadows, Queens.
If last year is any indication, some 4,000 high-end executives will be entertained at Chase's 12-year-old U.S. Open lounge.
The bank estimates it will spend about $2.2 million on the event this year, including everything from hosting clients for lunch or dinner at the lounge to sponsoring the women's doubles event.
Chase is betting that while tennis is no longer yesteryear's gentlemanly game, it still has cachet among the kind of well-heeled customers it wants.
"One has to be careful with whom to associate and how to present one's image," said Russel Alley, a Chase vice president of sports marketing. "Tennis is for the most part up-market."
Jim Andrews, vice president for editorial at Chicago-based IEG Sponsorship Report, which tracks event sponsorship, said it makes sense for Chase to lay claim to the U.S. Open, given the demographics and the bank's self-image.
"It's got all the right elements" for Chase, Mr. Andrews said. "It's a prestigious event, it's a hard ticket to come by, so any way you can be invited to the event adds a little extra special note."
But with all the money involved in his bank's sponsorship, Mr. Alley emphasized that every cent will be spent purposefully.
Each Chase department will have to account for its expenses, and each client is to be accompanied to the tennis event by a Chase relationship manager.
"It's not like somebody's secretary gets the tickets," he said.
But one didn't have to be a somebody to enjoy parts of two U.S. open- related events one day last week underwritten by Chase and hosted by a beaming A. Wright Elliott, a Chase executive vice president.
A who's who of past and present tennis talent assembled at Chase's Wall Street headquarters in the morning, when the bank hosted a buffet brunch for 200 guests on its top floor.
Tennis legends and former U.S. Open champions Stan Smith, Billie Jean King, and Virginia Wade were on hand to pick out names for the official tournament draw, munch on fruit and French toast, and rub shoulders with Chase clients.
For those who cared, the U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, even brought along the singles men's and women's tournament trophies, from which players' names were drawn by the special guests.
One popular guest was sex guru Dr. Ruth Westheimer, always game to chat about her latest book - currently, "Sex For Dummies" - and one of her favorite sports.
Ms. Westheimer was full of praise for Chase, which thanks to the interest of several bank executives has been a supporter of the New York Junior Tennis League, an organization that promotes tennis among inner-city youngsters.
The party then moved downstairs at noon, when Chase rolled out a blue carpet into a full-size court, and several other U.S. Open sponsors, including Wilson Sporting Goods and IBM, took over One Chase Plaza to display their wares.
Nearby, in front of several hundred lunching Chase employees and other onlookers and to the beat of new wave music, Ms. King, Ms. Wade, and the colorful Jensen brothers exchanged swift strokes.
Then, the tennis experts took on some 40 New York Junior Tennis League players in a clinic. Proceeds from the sales of $15 Chase T-shirts and other promotions were donated to the league.