Although it took until 2012 for bank sponsorship spending to reach and surpass pre-recession levels, both large and small financial institutions have been steadily increasing investments in sponsorship to acquire new customers, reward existing clients and demonstrate community involvement.

In a highly commoditized market, banks need to differentiate themselves from competitors and see sponsorship as a way to do this. The biggest challenge for bank marketers seeking to rise above the fray is to be as innovative in activation and story-telling as their counterparts in packaged goods, apparel, beverage and other active categories.

Banks use sponsorship to accomplish the following objectives:

Consumer engagement

  • Access one-of-a kind assets and experiences for customers
  • Gain promotional platforms to drive traffic, loyalty and revenue
  • Create cobranded products
  • Gain business from properties, cosponsors and other sponsorship-related entities
  • Access content for digital initiatives
  • Gain real estate for ATMs

Community engagement

  • Promote brand values
  • Demonstrate community involvement
  • Support corporate social responsibility platforms

Below, sponsorship strategies and major deals for the category’s biggest spenders.


 

Bank of America Corp.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $75M-$80M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • Major League Baseball
  • Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
  • NFL New England Patriots
  • NFL Dallas Cowboys
  • NASCAR

The biggest spender on sponsorship emerged from the recession with a streamlined portfolio and a national cause related marketing program.

Bank of America in 2012 launched the Express Your Thanks campaign to support returning military veterans. The bank expanded the program from a six-week initiative in late 2012 to a five-month program in 2013.
 
At the same time, Bank of America quadrupled its total donation to the campaign’s two beneficiaries—the Wounded Warrior Project and Welcome Back Veterans—from $250,000 to $1 million. 

The bank leverages the program across its three primary sponsorship platforms: Major League Baseball (MLB and nine clubs), NASCAR (NASCAR and the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race) and the NFL (four teams).

On the baseball front, Bank of America asked attendees to remain standing in honor of veterans following the seventh-inning stretch during the first five postseason games of the 2013 MLB season. The bank donated $1 for each person standing.

Bank of America is the most active sponsor of the arts and museums, in terms of number of deals. Thirty-two percent of arts properties and 36 percent of museums report the bank as a sponsor, according to IEG Research.


 

Citigroup, Inc.
Estimated 2013 sponsorship spend: $60M-$65M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • Citi Field, New York City
  • Live Nation
  • Citi Bike, New York City bicycle sharing program
  • Joe Gibbs Racing
  • U.S. Olympic Committee

Citi takes a less is more approach to sponsorship: The company is the second largest spender in the retail bank category but is sixth most active in terms of number of deals.

Citi activated its U.S. Olympic Committee partnership around the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games with Every Step of the Way, a program first launched at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The marketing program highlighted athletes and the community sports programs that inspired their journey to greatness.

Citi supported the program through live events, branch signage, social media, ATM screens and other platforms that connected the sponsorship with the Citigold suite of banking products under a “Go for Gold” theme.

In 2013, Citi signed a five-year, $41 million sponsorship with NYC Bike Share in a deal that affords branding on 10,000 bikes, 600 bike stations, membership keys and the NYC Bike Share website.

Citi leverages its deal with event promotion giant Live Nation by offering presale tickets, VIP packages and other special perks to customers under the Citi Private Pass program. The bank sponsors Joe Gibbs Racing and driver Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on behalf of its OneMain Financial consumer lending unit. 


 

JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $60M-$65M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • USTA US Open
  • Madison Square Garden, New York City
  • Chase Field/MLB Arizona Diamondbacks
  • NFL Chicago Bears

Chase uses sponsorship to establish an emotional connection with customers, take its products and services out of the commodity realm and position itself as a global financial services company.

The company activates sponsorship by rewarding customers and employees with access to concerts, sports events and other special perks.

Case in point: Chase is activating its sponsorship of Jay Z and Beyonce’s “On The Run” summer 2014 tour by offering credit and debit card customers the opportunity to buy tickets before the general public. 

Chase in 2010 signed a 10-year deal with Madison Square Garden that includes naming rights to areas inside the venue, media and other inventory. The company has activated the tie with a promotion at local branches that dangled tickets to customers who deposited incremental funds into their accounts. The more money a customer deposited, the better the tickets they received.

The promotion generated enough revenue to pay for the sponsorship, said a source close to the deal.

Chase in 2012 expanded the MSG partnership in a deal that made Chase the official card of Madison Square Garden. The bank activates the tie by offering ticket presales and unique experiences to Chase cardholders.


 

Wells Fargo & Co.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $45M-$50M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte (PGA Tour tournament)
  • Major League Soccer
  • American Cancer Society
  • United Way of America

In 2013, Wells Fargo signed a four-year partnership with Major League Soccer, a deal which represents the bank’s first national partnership since its 2008 acquisition of Wachovia Corp.

The goal of the sponsorship: build national scale and gain local touch points for customers and employees.

The sponsorship builds on the bank’s relationship with the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, a property located near Wells Fargo’s San Francisco headquarters. The league sponsorship replicates several components of the team deal, including community programs and amateur soccer tournaments.

The league sponsorship includes exclusivity in the retail banking and commercial lending categories.

Like other companies, Wells Fargo is placing more focus on digital activation. The company over the past two years has activated the Wells Fargo Championship with a video contest in conjunction with nonprofit The First Tee. The “Succeeding Together” promotion gave First Tee participants the opportunity to win a trip to the tournament by submitting a video in which they discussed a mentor who has made a positive impact on their life.


 

Capital One Financial Corp.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $30M-$35M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • NCAA
  • Capital One Bowl, Orlando
  • ESPY Awards

Best known as an issuer of credit cards, Capital One has approximately 900 branch locations, primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Capital One focuses sponsorship activity almost exclusively on college sports. Ties include the NCAA, the Capital One Bowl and Capital One Cup scholarship program for student athletes.

Capital One is partial to naming rights deals: In addition to the Capital One Bowl and Capital One Cup, the company sponsors the Capital One Academic All-American Awards and Capital One Bowl Week on ESPN.

Capital One’s overseas operations in 2012 signed four-year title sponsorship of The Football League’s Capital One Cup in England.

Capital One is a leading candidate to replace Discover Financial Services as title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, according to published reports.

Its NCAA partnership affords promotional rights for retail banking and credit cards.


 

Barclays plc
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $25M-$30M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • National Football League
  • Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • The Barclays, Paramus, N.J. (PGA Tour tournament)

The London-based financial services company focuses on three properties in the U.S. market: the NFL, The Barclays PGA Tour stop and the Barclays Center, home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets and future home of the NHL New York Islanders.

Barclays’ partnership with the NFL affords status as official issuer of league and team credit cards under the NFL Extra Points banner. 

Barclays measures sponsorship success through primary research on brand favorability and consideration, and aided and unaided awareness of sponsorship and the products and services promoted through the partnership.

Deals outside the U.S. include The 02 in London, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London and the Barclays Premier League, a tie the company reportedly plans to end when its contract expires in 2016. 


 

PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $15M-$20M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • PNC Arena/NHL Carolina Hurricanes
  • PNC Park/MLB Pittsburgh Pirates

PNC has expanded its sponsorship portfolio to support its growth ambitions.

The Pittsburgh-based bank has moved beyond its Mid-Atlantic stronghold over the past decade through a series of corporate acquisitions, including Riggs National Corp., National City Corp. and the 2012 acquisition of the Royal Bank of Canada’s U.S. retail operations.

Those acquisitions have resulted in a number of new ties ranging from pro sports teams to endurance sports and community events. Recent deals include Go! St. Louis, the Thrival Innovation +  Music Festival in Pittsburgh and the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

PNC in May announced a multiyear partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, a tie that builds on a 25-plus-year relationship between the bank and team owner.

In addition to building visibility in new markets and strengthening relationships with clients, PNC uses sponsorship to create co-branded products, deploy ATMs and demonstrate community involvement.


 

BBVA Compass Bancshares Inc.
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $15M-$20M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • National Basketball Assn.
  • BBVA Compass Bank Stadium, Houston

The subsidiary of Bilbao, Spain-based Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Arentaria focuses almost exclusively on sports, a platform it uses to support fair play, respect for rules, ethical behavior, personal and professional integrity, and other brand values.

BBVA Compass entered the U.S. sports marketing waters in 2010 with a tie to the NBA. The company in 2013 launched NBA Banking, an online banking product that features debit cards bearing the marks and logos of NBA teams.

BBVA promoted NBA Banking with a promotion that dangled an all-expense paid trip to the 2013 NBA Finals.

BBVA also is an active sponsor in Texas. The company this year expanded its sponsorship of the MLS Houston Dynamo and title of BBVA Compass Stadium with a jersey sponsorship with the Houston Dash women’s soccer team.

BBVA dropped title of Birmingham, Ala.’s BBVA Compass Bowl following the January 2014 game. 


 

U.S. Bancorp
Estimated 2013 U.S. sponsorship spend: $15M-$20M

Top Properties In Terms Of Spending

  • MLB Minnesota Twins/Target Field
  • NFL Minnesota Vikings
  • NFL Denver Broncos

U.S. Bank takes a broad approach to sponsorship with ties ranging from arts and education to pro sports teams and community festivals.

U.S. Bank looks to activate sponsorship with cosponsor cross-promotions.

The bank activated its Denver Broncos deal in conjunction with Cold Stone Creamery. The “Broncos Just Got Sweeter” promotion was designed to drive traffic to ice cream shops and prompt transactions with the bank’s Broncos debit card. Consumers who used the card at Cold Stone outlets received a 15 percent discount.

New ties in 2014 include title of California’s OC Marathon and cosponsorship of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas.

U.S. Bank this year expanded its presence in Chicago after acquiring the branch banking operations of Charter One Bank.