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SBJ/November 22 - 28, 2004/SBJ In Depth
Sponsorship report card: Experts grade the financial services/banking category
Published November 22, 2004
President, Strategic Sports Group
For example, Bank of America, which recently acquired Fleet Bank, drove home its “new” identity in Boston. Bank of America, a relatively new player to Red Sox Nation, was opportunistic in connecting emotionally with fans by becoming title sponsor of the long-awaited victory parade in Boston. The partnership created a lasting memory with loyal BoSox fans that strategically aligned with BofA’s “higher standards” positioning, and strengthened community roots.
Some of the best work in the financial service category is still done behind the scenes with experiential hospitality that enables key customers to go “inside the lines.” Companies like Invesco, Charles Schwab, TD Waterhouse and JP-Morgan Chase provide customers with unique experiences, not just watercooler conversations. Because business in this category is often driven by key relationships, unique experiences always resonate well.
Bank of America, John Hancock, State Farm and Allstate continue to hedge their sponsorship strategies with heavy media spending. Moving impressions, yes. But most true promotional activation is limited.
This category is about sales. Mortgage companies, lately the most aggressive and sales-driven businesses in the category, have found sports sponsorships to be a catalyst to drive leads and sales. The market has seen the emergence of Argent (a former client), which integrates across five sports, and Ameriquest’s recent MLB and NFL sponsorships.
Banks are best positioned to activate locally across multiple service offerings. Insurance is second. Bank of America recently provided credence to our approach by countering with a fully integrated baseball deal. ING has shown how to own a sport globally (marathons) with relevance locally.
Like the consumer product brands that have long dominated sports sponsorship, financial services marketers are now smartly exploiting sponsorship for that elusive “differentiated advantage,” enabling them to break through clutter, forge sustainable relationships and own the “navigational role” as trusted adviser for today’s consumer.
Multiple global, national, regional and local financial services brands have embraced sponsorship as an important part of their overall marketing mix. From countless stadium-naming deals (Lincoln Financial Field, Wachovia Center) to the USOC (Bank of America), NASCAR (SunTrust), MLB (Ameriquest, John Hancock, BofA), U.S. Open Tennis (JPMorgan Chase), PGA (Schwab) and NYC and other global marathons (ING), category activity is robust and largely well-activated.
Select brands spring top of mind for their more integrated, brand-centric approach. This list includes Wachovia, John Hancock and particularly BofA, each having found the strategic terra firma and tactical formula to reinforce brand values, emotionally engage their audiences, and impact business.
Principal, Velocity Sports & Entertainment*
This has meant strong category support for sponsorships, as it allows the consolidator to link its “new” brand with an established community brand; it allows differentiation in a business where everyone claims to be friendly, technologically advanced, and the best place for your “relationship.”
A few category leaders come to mind. Bank of America has done an excellent job, not only in the scope of its portfolio (Olympics, PGA Tour, MLB and teams) but in its execution. In particular, we like the top-to-bottom platform for baseball, from MLB to Little League. BofA’s recent sponsorship of Democracy Plaza was innovative.
Among the “megas,” we also admire JPMorgan Chase’s long-standing Corporate Challenge. It’s a model for proprietary events: cost effective, sponsor-controlled and impactful to a defined audience.
* Velocity clients include Citizens Bank.