How American Express Shared the Love with Small Gift Handouts


What do American Express and small businesses have in common? Great events. To jam-pack the holiday season with fun, American Express crafted an intuitive gifting campaign—surprising thousands of fans while leveraging its entire Shop Small platform. The event, itself, was all about putting small businesses first—sponsoring six different NBA teams while promoting holiday cheer.

The Shop Small for 2X Rewards Movement

American Express kicked off its event across six NBA games from November 10 to December 22. Their campaign, dubbed the Shop Small for 2X Rewards Movement, started at the HEAT’s Chicago Bulls game. The American Airlines Arena in Miami was a prime location for American Express’s reveal. Attendees were barraged with hundreds of customized T-shirts, which were ported directly from Peace Love World—a Miami retailer.

The Shop Small for 2X Rewards Movement didn’t stop there. American Express continued blasting fans until the Warriors game against the Celtics. At the event, American Express had a final huzzah by handing out 1,200 gift cards sourced from local businesses. On November 25, American hopped over to the Los Angeles Lakers game—offering another 1,500 sneaker wipes, gift cards and Lakers socks. This time, Blends—a local sneaker shop—was the benefactor.

Fast-Paced Giveaways

Among American Express’s big-time marketing initiatives, it’s fast-paced giveaways were certainly notable. It’s rare to see a competitive approach to swag handouts. That said, American Express’s presence at NBA games, in general, is telling. American Express distributed a recorded 22,000 candles at the Chicago Bulls game, representing 450 brand ambassadors in two minutes flat.

The historical experiential marketing moment might’ve been spearheaded by American Express, but the surrounding brands certainly had a say—and a massive presence. Local shop, Abbey Brown, was responsible for delivering the gifts. Once the campaign wrapped up, 250 Shop Small parachutes handed out another 2,000 wool gloves crafted by local Brooklyn merchants.

The Social Media Angle

No marketing outreach effort stands tall without a little social media support. In celebration of the event, American Express utilized its NBA partnership with Shaquile O’Neal to promote on Facebook and Twitter. Understandably, this approach was a good idea. The campaign, itself, was a prime example of American Express’s dedication to fan experiences.

Constantly encouraging credit holders to “shop small,” it isn’t strange to see American Express catapult an array of small-time gifts. Here, their targeting strategy is highlighted. American Express’s approach wasn’t about what was given—but how it was given. Card members are frequent amenity-lovers, and even a small marketing notion goes a long way. Marketing during a venue, certainly, is a unique angle. It’s entirely human, bringing products and services directly to the client’s level.