SBJ/August 6 - 12, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Bank of America ready to run with Games campaign

Bank of America will make the Olympics the primary theme of its fourth- and first-quarter brand campaign, and has signed U.S. athletes Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, Cammi Granato, Jonny Moseley and Kristi Yamaguchi as spokespersons.

It's all part of an effort to increase awareness of the company's Olympic sponsorship among its target audience of 35- to 45-year-olds.

Dockery Clark, Bank of America's senior vice president of Olympic and event marketing, said market research has indicated that about 15 percent of Bank of America's target audience can identify the company as an Olympic sponsor. The objective is to double that number and get to levels commensurate with companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike.

That may be a lofty goal for a banking sponsor that does not run nearly as much advertising on sports programming. (Nike is not even an Olympic sponsor, but buys heavily during the Olympic broadcasts and is widely perceived to be one.) But the bank hopes integrating Olympics into its marketing communications will boost the image of the brand.

"If we can really move the needle, I think the Olympics will be part of our brand platform for many years to come," Clark said.

The athletes signed by the company are initially acting only as internal and event spokespersons, but at least some are likely to appear in the Olympic-themed ad campaign once Bank of America's ad agency, Bozell, settles on the creative.

Bank of America is increasing its overall ad spending and will direct a large percentage of those dollars to NBC for an Olympic buy.

Other elements of the Olympic platform will include an Olympic-themed curriculum that will be distributed to schools, a traveling community outreach that will bring the spokespersons to hospitals and charitable events, and sponsorship and part-ownership of a made-for-television figure skating event called "Bank of America Celebration of Gold."

The event, to feature gold medalists from the last 25 years, will be staged at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Dec. 3 and air Dec. 9 on Fox. Edge Marketing, which staged a post-Olympic tour of the U.S. gymnastics team last year, will produce and co-own this event.

Bank of America will also stage an extensive internal incentive program in which top-performing employees will staff temporary banking centers set up in Utah during the Olympics. It has also commissioned an internal video.

The only area it has cut back on is hospitality, limiting the Salt Lake entourage to 40 people at a time in four waves. It's a far cry from the 450 that the company, then known as NationsBank, hosted in Atlanta in 1996.

 HOST COMMITTEE SPONSORS: Nearly 8,000 Super Bowl volunteers will brandish a Coca-Cola logo on their uniforms in January as part of the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Co. sponsorship of the New Orleans Super Bowl XXXVI Host Committee. Coca-Cola has already teamed up with a local supermarket chain, Sav-A-Center, to assist in the recruiting efforts.

The New Orleans Super Bowl XXXVI Host Committee, a nonprofit organization run by the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, has budgeted about $3.5 million in sponsorship and hospitality revenue in order to stage or provide services to certain events. The committee must do this with little hard inventory to offer beyond 350 game tickets, sponsor mentions on its own communications materials and title rights to a few events such as the parties thrown for the Super Bowl media. Previous host committees were able to offer logo placement on thousands of banners hung from streetlights, but the league has since taken control of that inventory.

Now, the most valuable piece the committee has to offer may be the rights to its marks, implying an association with the Super Bowl itself.

Early sponsor signings include Sportality, the sports hospitality and travel division of event management firm The Executive Needs Inc., and Tenet Gulf States HealthSystem, which owns hospitals in and around New Orleans. Tenet will provide emergency medical service at the NFL Experience, one of the host committee's obligations to the NFL.

The committee has reached an $800,000 hospitality deal with Super Star Enterprises, a sports fantasy and travel company owned by the former principals of Esuperstars.com, a similar company that was part-owned by SFX Entertainment Inc. (it merged with UltimateBid.com and later folded).

SFX, now called Clear Channel Entertainment, is still around, as it is the committee's national sponsorship sales representative. Billy Ferrante, the committee's vice president of marketing, said he expects about half the sponsorship revenue to come from local companies, with the rest brought to the table by Clear Channel. He said the sponsorship roster will total between 12 and 15, with most of the deals being completed during the next two months.

  COKE IN ABBA LAND: On the other side of the globe, Coca-Cola Sweden signed a low six-figure deal to become title sponsor of an NHL grassroots event now called "Coca-Cola NHL on Tour." The event, which kicked off last year without a title sponsor, is making three stops in Sweden this month, staging in-line hockey tournaments in each market along with interactive games that test hockey skills. EA Sports, Sonera Juxto, NRJ Radio and First Hotels are supporting sponsors.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at abernstein@amcity.com.

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