Southwest Airlines merges with AirTran Airways and signs deal with Brewers

Southwest Airlines is creating a larger presence in Milwaukee, as it finalized a merger with AirTran Airways on March 1 and announced a sponsorship deal with the Milwaukee Brewers last week.

The sponsorship will make the airline the official airline of the Milwaukee Brewers. The deal includes in-stadium signs, a presence on the concourse level of the stadium and a “How Far Did it Fly” in-game feature during Brewers home games.

“Sports is a passion point and the Brewers are an unquestionable passion point for Milwaukee,” said Brad Hawkins, spokesperson for Southwest. “We want people to know we are invested in the community and have the same passion points as the community. Fans will know when they go to Miller Park that Southwest is involved with the team.”

Hawkins noted that even before the Brewers sponsorship, Southwest had a good relationship with the Milwaukee area.

“We have a very strong relationship with the city and the county,” Hawkins said. “We are two years into our partnership there, and AirTran has many more (years.)”

The sponsorship of the Brewers came just as the Federal Aviation Administration approved a certificate for Southwest and AirTran Airways to operate as one.

“(The merger) is going according to schedule,” Hawkins said. “Over the next three years, by 2015, all the airlines will be painted and all the cities AirTran serves will be converted (to Southwest).”

AirTran has been a major sponsor of Marquette Athletics in the past, with its logo and brand name appearing in Marquette Athletics content, both printed and online.

“This is the third year of our partnership,” said Brian Bowsher, director of marketing and sales for Marquette Athletics. “They are our title sponsor, which is our biggest partner. They appear on our website, emails and tickets.”

Southwest said it is unsure whether the sponsorship of Marquette athletics will continue under Southwest’s helm.

“Our AirTran sponsorship of Marquette athletics runs through this academic year,” said Patty Herbeck, Southwest’s manager of national strategic partnerships and sports marketing. “Once the term is complete we will evaluate our sponsorship for the future.”

The acquisition of AirTran was originally announced by Southwest in September 2010. The merger gives Southwest new hubs not only in Milwaukee, but Atlanta, Orlando and Baltimore as well, which are AirTran’s four most active hubs.