Why does Delta Airlines sponsor the Washington Nationals, in a city where it has no hub?

Do we think the wine is any good in there, or just your average airport wine transported to a... ballpark?

Do we think the wine is any good in there, or just your average airport wine transported to a... ballpark?

Why does Delta Airlines appear to be operating the baseball park equivalent of an airport lounge inside of Nationals Park, in a city (Washington, DC) where it is the only "big four" airline without a hub?

An equally worthy question is why neither American, United, nor Southwest (the "hometown" airlines respectively hubbed at Washington National, Washington Dulles, and Baltimore-Washington airports) are out in the community pressing their brand around the popular ballpark as the headliner of the $360 per seat tickets one currently must buy to enter the "Delta Sky360 Club" behind home plate. I'd have snapped pictures on the inside, but that's just not a price I'm willing to pay for a ballgame. Sorry.

It seems a missed opportunity, particularly for American, the reigning king of Washington National airport. I have long believed they should be more visible in the community they calls home here.

I fondly recall attending a game in Cleveland about ten years ago (the night the Red Sox's John Lester returned to the mound from his lymphoma treatment), and noticing how Continental Airlines seemed to own the airline sponsorship game inside the ballpark. But Cleveland was a Continental hub back then (RIP Continental and your Cleveland-Hopkins hub). Meanwhile, a little back of the napkin math tells me that Delta is carrying a mere 9% of the more than 70 million airline passengers that pass through the DC area each year. The airline seems to have no appetite for expanding at either Dulles or BWI, and there's essentially no room to expand at National, so I don't see that statistic changing dramatically -- sponsorship or not.

It just seems an odd use of marketing dollars, essentially an expensive advertisement suggesting "Hey, Nationals fans, fly Delta to... ummm... fourteen places..." (yeah, seriously, that's it) including the ones you'd imagine such as Atlanta and Los Angeles... and some oddballs that leave you scratching your head... like Lexington... and Omaha.

Is Delta trying to fill the seats they have at National, where they do (in fairness) operate some of the largest airplanes currently scheduled there? Is sponsorship -- like so much of the other advertising in the city -- a play to be front and center with law makers and power brokers in the DC? This place is home to some marketing patterns that would seem woefully odd in most other cities. Perhaps the folks at Delta just really love baseball?

I'd tell you that I was dying to try the wine there, but nobody likes the guy who drinks wine at a baseball game, not even me.