Delta, Wheels Up launch joint TV advertising

Wheels Up and Delta Air Lines are upping their joint marketing via ESPN College GameDay, Monday Night Football, and SEC on CBS.

By Doug Gollan, September 15, 2023

Wheels Up and Delta Air Lines are upping their joint marketing via ESPN College GameDay, Monday Night Football, and SEC on CBS

Delta Air Lines and Wheels Up are partnering on at least three television sponsorships as the latest move showing how the Atlanta-based airline plans to boost the private jet company.

The integrated campaign started earlier this month using Wheels Up’s traditional platform of ESPN College GameDay.

Delta Wheels Up
Delta Air Lines and Wheels Up have joined together in marketing during Monday Night Football (above). They are also partnering on ESPN College GameDay and SEC on CBS college football games.

The joint advertising is also running on Monday Night Football broadcasts and SEC on CBS college football telecasts.

Delta’s 2022 annual report shows advertising expense was $302 million, $198 million, and $119 million for 2022, 2021, and 2020, respectively.

Wheels Up, Delta Air Lines – Annual Advertising Spending (in millions)

  2020 2021 2022
Delta Air Lines $119.0 $198.0 $302.0
Wheels Up $7.2 $12.3 $10.5
Source: Annual Reports

While Wheels Up has long been one of the most aggressive private aviation providers when it comes to marketing, its annual report shows its advertising spend was $10.5 million, $12.3 million, and $7.2 million for 2022, 2021, and 2020, respectively.

Delta, Wheels Up close ranks

The joint marketing is part of the two companies’ previously announced intentions to work together more closely.

As part of its 2019 agreement to sell Delta Private Jets to Wheels Up, the pair entered a commercial pact providing members of the private aviation provider with status and miles in the airline’s SkyMiles loyalty programming.

Members can also use funds paid to Wheels Up for future private flights to buy tickets on Delta Air Lines.

During its 2023 Q1 earnings call, Wheels Up announced it was engaging Delta’s 500-person salesforce to pitch private flights to the airline’s corporate accounts.

READ: A brief history of Airlines and Private Jet partnerships

That was followed by Delta CEO Ed Bastian telling an industry audience of aviation executives during a Q&A at the Wings Club that he fully supported Wheels Up.

His comments came less than two weeks after Founder, Chairman and CEO Kenny Dichter stepped aside and was replaced on an interim basis by CFO Todd Smith against a backdrop of continuing losses, dwindling cash, and reports of a possible bankruptcy.

Delta Center SLC
Wheels Up officials declined to comment on additional co-marketing plans with Delta Air Lines. Delta holds high-profile sponsorships with the Utah Jazz (above), New York Yankees, New York Mets, Atlanta Falcons, PGA and LPGA golfers, the U.S. Olympic Team, and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

A bankruptcy could have left Wheels Up members, who at the time had nearly $1 billion in advance payments for future flights, as unsecured creditors.

On Aug. 15, Delta announced it would lead a $500 million rescue package that will give it and its partners 95% control of the company.

Bastian also appointed Delta’s CFO Dan Janki as Chairman of Wheels Up, which was followed earlier this week with the selection of longtime Delta Board Member George Mattson as CEO.

Earlier this year, Wheels Up opened a centralized operations center in Atlanta, where Delta is headquartered and Mattson will be based.

Dave Holtz, a 40-year veteran with Delta who helped oversee the Northwest Airlines-Delta merger, was named Chairman of Operations at Wheels Up last year.

Wheels Up has struggled to integrate a half-dozen acquisitions of charter operators.

Currently, it is currently the fourth-largest U.S. private jet operator based on fractional and charter flight hours.

Delta sports marketing sponsorships

Speaking about the most recent activities, Wheels Up Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer Kristen Lauria said in a written statement provided to Private Jet Card Comparisons, “We are looking forward to another great football season and some exciting joint brand activations with Delta Air Lines. Our celebrity guest picker activation on College GameDay started in 2016 and continues to be an integral marketing campaign every year. Having Delta be a part of this great activation with us on ESPN College GameDay, as well as on ESPN Monday Night Countdown, and for SEC football games on CBS, demonstrates our continued alignment, and we look forward to reaching a critical viewership through these programs.”

A Wheels Up spokesperson declined to discuss who is paying for the joint buys and other venues where the duo could collaborate.

Earlier this year, Delta signed a 10-year extension as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

It is currently the official airline of the New York Mets and New York Yankees.

READ: Exclusive first interview with new Wheels Up CEO George Mattson

It also moved into the LPGA with sponsorships of Michelle Wie West and Rose Zhang, the first time the airline had sponsored players from the tour on a national basis, according to Golfweek.

On the PGA tour, it sponsors Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau.

In July, it reached an agreement to rename the arena in Salt Lake City that is home to the Utah Jazz as the Delta Center.

The home venue is used for over 320 evening events annually.

According to SportsBusiness Journal, Delta has also inked a $400 million sponsorship with NBCUniversal and the organizers of the 2028 Olympic Games.

Other possible opportunities include Delta’s role as the Official Airline of Team USA for the Olympics in Paris 2024, Milan Cortina 2026, and Los Angeles 2028.

Expanding the private jet market

Mattson hinted that Delta intends to use its high-profile platform to promote private aviation to non-users, specifically Wheels Up.

During an interview earlier this week, the incoming CEO told us, “Delta sees this as an opportunity to expand and extend its offerings to its premium customers, both corporate and high-value, high-net-worth individuals. The opportunity that we see strategically together is something that hasn’t really been done in aviation before. It is the opportunity to seamlessly integrate for the customer, even though we’re separate companies in historically separate ecosystems of commercial aviation and private aviation.”

He added, “As you know, 90% or so of the people who can afford to fly private haven’t flown private. We still have a lot of people who haven’t adopted it yet. Premium travelers aren’t commercial premium or private premium. There are a lot of people who bounce back and forth trip by trip, need by need. We want to sit at that intersection and offer our customers collectively, both sides, more choices and integrated options.”

Related Articles

Visit DG Amazing Experiences

Find the perfect solution for your private aviation needs

Make the right decision

If you want a program-by-program comparison of more than 250 products from more than 50 companies covering 65 points of differentiation and over 40,000 data points.