||Bank of America Banks on Cause Marketing
Financial Services Giant Uses Cause Marketing to Engage Consumers, Drive Branch Traffic and Support CSR Initiative
Once the scapegoat for excessive spending, Bank of America Corp. has emerged from the U.S. financial crisis with a streamlined sponsorship portfolio and a national cause-related marketing program.
The focus of the CRM program: military veterans.
Bank of America last year rolled out Express Your Thanks, a program that generated $250,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. The nonprofit assists severely injured service members making the transition to civilian life.
At the same time, Bank of America has streamlined its sponsorship portfolio. The bank in 2012 dropped International Speedway Corp. and trimmed its partnership with Speedway Motorsports, Inc. to support its shift in activation strategy. The company continues to sponsor one SMI track: Charlotte Motor Speedway, home to the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
All told, Bank of America spent between $70 million to $75 million on sponsorship in both 2011 and 2010, down from $95 million to $100 million in 2009, according to IEG estimates.
IEG SR spoke with Charles Greenstein, senior vice president and global sponsorship marketing executive, for an update on Bank of America's sponsorship strategy, the Express Your Thanks program and other topics.
Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
IEG SR: The financial services industry has undergone some significant changes over the past five years. How has Bank of America's sponsorship strategy evolved?
Greenstein: As much as the environment has changed, some things tend to stay the same. Sponsorship is a valuable tool in our marketing toolbox that we use to drive revenue, our brand, impact the community and engage employees.
That's not going to change, but what we do with sponsorship has changed.
IEG SR: Can you share an example?
Greenstein: Last year we used sponsorship to influence how people view the military. There is a tremendous amount of gratitude and thankfulness around returning troops, and we wanted to leverage that excitement to provide customers and prospects the opportunity to show their support.
We created Express Your Thanks, a program that we drove digitally and through sponsored events. We leveraged Instagram and Twitter to let folks share their appreciation of veterans. Bank of America made a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project for every post and tweet, up to $250,000.
IEG SR: How did you support the program at sponsored events?
Greenstein: We activated the program at our banking centers during the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City. When you walked into a bank you saw red, white and blue whiffle balls.
People could sign the balls and say something special. We picked up the balls every night and took them to the All-Star Fan Fest.
We had two large structures at the Fan Fest. One was the American flag, and the other was a silhouette of a batter. We reached out to patrons and asked them to support the military by signing a ball, around which we made a donation.
By all accounts, both tangibly and intangibly, it was a very successful program. Most people don't say no when it comes to supporting the military. It was a very heartfelt campaign, and it allowed people to express themselves digitally or at a venue.
IEG SR: Did you activate the program at other events?
Greenstein: We activated the program across our portfolio including the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and four NFL franchises. With the NFL we used footballs to bring the program to life at our banking centers.
IEG SR: Will you continue the program in 2013, and if so, will it be any different?
Greenstein: We will continue the program in 2013. There will be some evolution, so it won't be exactly the same thing. The military is one of our CSR priorities along with hunger, housing and financial education.
I would love to see something around MLB Opening Day, but that window is tightening. If we don't do anything around Opening Day we'll have episodic moments around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day that are obviously tied to the military.
IEG SR: Does Bank of America have other major activation programs slated for 2013?
Greenstein: Express Your Thanks is one of several programs that we will put significant resources behind. We have done some experiential marketing programs for Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust. Those programs are more aligned with one-on-one experiential programs, but we also use them to support the brand.
IEG SR: Can you share an example?
Greenstein: Bank of America purchased U.S. Trust years ago. It's a healthy, vibrant brand, but it doesn’t do much advertising. It's a brand that focuses on a specific audience segment, not the mass market.
We wanted to make some noise by leveraging rotational signage, outfield wall signage and other media inventory at MLB games. That helped us be disruptive and bring some attention to the U.S. Trust brand.
(Source: Sponsorship.com, 02/04/13)
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