As advertisers pour more and more money into Super Bowl commercials and digital campaigns, the price continues to rise. Each 30-second spot shown during last season’s 41-33 Eagles’ win over New England set sponsors back a cool $5 million. That’s more than $166,666 per second.
Despite the costs, a wide array of B2B and B2C companies have ponied up even more cash this year, in hopes of capturing the attention of a captive audience that’s actually looking forward to seeing commercials.
You have the opportunity to find a niche audience and capitalize on it.
A look at the last few years’ worth of ads shows that banks prefer to spend their marketing dollars elsewhere, leaving Big Game advertising to Amazon, Netflix, and a rash of companies promoting tangible consumer products (as well as quasi-financial organizations like E-Trade and Intuit, makers of Quicken and TurboTax).
But, as bank CMOs continue to search for ways to increase market share and individual brand stickiness, it seemed like the right time to look at how financial organizations are partnering with sports teams to attract and retain new clients—even without paying for a spotlight during the big game.
Turns out there are plenty of football-fueled options for fans out there—as some banks offer basic, team-branded debit cards, while others boast exclusive benefits that might really sway comparison shoppers with a strong affinity for their favorite NFL squads.
Here are a few sports-related bank marketing plans that warrant a replay:
Barclays Bank | NFL Extra Points Visa
First off, the NFL Extra Points Visa Credit Card is issued by Barclays Bank Delaware (Barclays). This no-annual-fee credit card is more associated with the league than certain teams and, thus,
All Extra Points cardholders can save and redeem points they’ve earned for cash back, as well as exclusive bucket-list options like NFL Draft tickets or even Super Bowl sideline passes—experiences worthy of the Extra Points tagline, “the card that gets you in the game.”
U.S. Bank Visa® | Choose Your Team
Drilling down to the team level, I found the U.S. Bank Visa® Debit Card—your basic debit card, but one that offered minimally different branded options for fans of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers. From the looks of it, fan “benefits” are limited to the opportunity to share your team pride (by getting your team’s branded debit card) and the chance for Vikings and Broncos fans to order team checks if they’d like. Each team’s specific card description included a rather generic bullet point highlighting access to unique team promotions—none of which are described with any specificity.
U.S. Bank also offers a branded debit card option for fans of the NBA’s Utah Jazz—which I found interesting, considering that the $461B bank is headquartered in Minneapolis, home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. But, that’s data for you—apparently, there’s a rash of Jazz fans/U.S. Bank clients clamoring to show their team spirit with every swipe.
Wells Fargo | L.A. Rams
In celebration of the Super Bowl-bound Rams’ return to Los Angeles in 2016, Wells Fargo began offering Rams-themed debit and prepaid card designs as part of a team sponsorship in which the banking giant would also sponsor a “Community Player of the Week” promotion—one that highlighted both a Rams player and a Wells Fargo staff member each week. Like U.S. Bank’s approach, this allowed Wells Fargo clients an opportunity to show Rams pride but didn’t go much further when it came to tangible benefits that would draw clients and prospects further into the fold.
PNC Bank® | Chicago Bears
If you’re a fan of “Da Bears,” PNC Bank has “Da Card” for you. The Chicago Bears PNC Bank Visa® Debit Card offers fans of one of the league’s most storied franchises their own specially designed cards, as well as extras that more avid Bears fans would appreciate. Benefits include 20% off regularly priced merchandise at all Soldier Field Pro Shop locations and store.chicagobears.com, as well as 20% off most concessions purchased at Soldier Field on game days.
However, PNC’s Bears card does carry a $10 annual fee, so cardholders will need to weigh whether any potential savings would offset this fee. And, just so you know, there’s no game-day discount on alcohol. (I don’t make the rules, I just report ‘em.) Those setbacks aside, as far as actual benefits go, PNC’s debit card offer seems to be more fan- and experience-focused than those previously mentioned.
CommunityAmerica Credit Union | Chiefs Checking
Finally, I know it’s never apples to apples when comparing financial organizations. That being said, Kansas-based CommunityAmerica Credit Union (CACU)—a $2B organization with fewer than three dozen locations scattered throughout the Kansas City metro area—has set the bar as far as NFL team-oriented promotions go.
Despite boasting a smaller market share than U.S. Bank, Bank of America, UMB, regional power Commerce, and many others, CACU’s marketing arm was able to form a partnership with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs to create Chiefs Checking. This account offers a typical branded card promo similar to those from other banks we’ve mentioned, but includes 1% cash back (up to $60 per year), no fees or minimum balance requirements, and 15% off at shop.chiefs.com and the Arrowhead Stadium Pro Shop.
That’s all well and good, but the key to the success of the Chiefs Checking product is that CACU consistently shows that it knows its audience. Since the launch of Chiefs Checking in April 2017, communityamerica.org has featured the account on its homepage slider. Additionally, the account has been supported by television ads featuring rising NFL star Patrick Mahomes (the Chiefs’ quarterback, whose Q-rating is through the roof) along with a series of hyper-targeted contests (like meet-and-greets and playoff tickets) and promotions strengthened by team-signed memorabilia, ticket package giveaways, and more. These are the kinds of things that get fans talking—even the casual ones.
Capitalize on a Niche Audience
You have the opportunity to find a niche audience and capitalize on it. When it comes to sports, fans are passionate. Take an ordinary experience—banking—and use your customers’ passions to make it an emotional one. That’s what CommunityAmerica did, and it paid off. PNC’s Bears card isn’t bad, but there’s really no reason banks as large as U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo can’t offer hyperlocal experiences for audiences attracted to their team-focused cards—they just don’t.
Take an ordinary experience—banking—and use your customers’ passions to make it an emotional one. That’s what CommunityAmerica did, and it paid off. PNC’s Bears card isn’t bad, but there’s really no reason banks as large as U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo can’t offer hyperlocal experiences for audiences attracted to their team-focused cards—they just don’t.
Take an ordinary experience—banking—and use your customers’ passions to make it an emotional one.
This approach is by no means football-specific—banks large and small have similar programs in place for a multitude of sports at all levels.
Fifth Third Bank | Nashville Predators
Fifth Third Bank’s Nashville Predators Banking account boasts a veritable locker room’s worth of exclusive “Smashville” / hockey-themed perks that include both savings and experience-based benefits (such as early entrance to Predators home games, ticket discounts, and exclusive monthly drawings for merchandise and memorabilia).
Astra Bank | School Spirit Program
At the other end of the
Currently, 10 area schools participate in the School Spirit Program—which means Astra account holders can receive a custom debit card featuring their chosen school’s logo, colors, and mission statement. Unlike other banks focused on collegiate or professional sports teams, Astra pays little to no licensing fees to participants in the School Spirit Program—a significant distinction that certainly helps Astra maximize its limited marketing budget.
That’s awesome, but the rest of the program’s benefits highlight a truly altruistic endeavor that benefits participating schools.
Each Astra cardholder pays a $5 debit card fee, which the bank donates back to their chosen school to fund events, programs, and other student activities—and not just those related to athletics. Additionally, every time those “team” debit cards are used, a portion of those transaction amounts goes back to the cardholder’s preferred school as well.
It goes without saying that this program helps Astra grow its customer base, but it’s a novel approach I haven’t seen elsewhere. And, it allows account holders to stuff the coffers at their neighborhood schools without making big changes to their everyday routines.
Now that’s community-based, hyper-focused banking.
Grow Your Own Fan Base
In the NFL, stars are made every Super Bowl Sunday, many of whom seem to rise out of nowhere. While you’re watching the big game, take the opportunity to think about how you can grow your own passionate fan base, just like that you see on TV. Yours may or may not be wearing custom bank jerseys and face paint; but who knows?
We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.–Five-time Super Bowl championship coach Vince Lombardi
Legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who won five Super Bowls, including the first two (in 1966 and 1967), once said, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” It’s true—and the possibilities are endless.
Don’t fumble your chance to pick up market share, grow deposits, and increase customer affinity. Don’t let the size of your bank or your pedigree determine the gameplan, or fail to pursue an idea because you don’t think your bank’s big enough. It’s all about audience and your opportunity to grow yours.