Football season is well underway now, and so are creative campaigns credit unions from Florida to San Diego are staging to build team spirit, both on and off the field.
Sponsoring local football teams is a long-standing annual tradition for many credit unions, and some are already celebrating in the end zone by increasing awareness and membership.
Others are rookies, but still scoring by supporting local teams, hosting contests during home games, sponsoring sports-related member engagement initiatives and even drafting football stars such as Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Witherspoon to share the credit union team spirit.
Football fever is heating up. For example, one Midwestern credit union recently announced three football sponsorships, including a local high school league, a college team and an NFL team.
There’s even a friendly rivalry – and friendly bets – going on among credit unions that support different teams. And that’s just the tip of the pigskin.
Following is a closer look at seven gridiron contenders.
Next Page: USC vs. Notre Dame
In the spirit of the Notre Dame vs. University of Southern California football game set for Oct. 19, Tom Gryp, president/CEO of the $44 million Notre Dame FCU in South Bend, Ind., issued a challenge this week to Gary Perez, president/CEO of the $370 million USC Credit Union in Los Angeles.
The goal: To see which institution can acquire the most new credit card applications by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 17.
“Those are fighting words, and we're looking forward to taking the fight out of the Irish,” Perez joked, after learning that Notre Dame had released a press release almost immediately after issuing the challenge. “Our team has what it takes to win.”
Both credit unions have contributed $5,000 and the champion will receive the full $10,000 to donate to the charity of their choice.
“When we win, and you'll notice I didn't say “if” we win, we plan to donate the $10,000 to Troy Camp, the oldest and largest philanthropy at the University of Southern California, which is run by USC undergraduates and helps to inspire kids from Los Angeles area elementary schools to pursue higher education by providing tutoring, after-school programs and other educational events,” Perez added.
Notre Dame FCU’s charity of choice is Kelly Cares Foundation, established by Brian Kelly, head football coach for Notre Dame, and his wife, Paquim, which supports organizations, initiatives and programs in health, education and community, the credit union said.
Last year Notre Dame FCU launched a Visa Platinum/ Kelly Cares Foundation affinity card that donates 1% of cardholders’ annual purchase to the charity. Notre Dame FCU was also a participating sponsor of the Kelly Cares Foundation’s Football 101, where funds raised were donated to breast cancer research.
Notre Dame FCU lost a similarchallenge last year to the $537 million Alabama Credit Union in Tuscaloosa, Ala. During that credit card contest, Notre Dame FCU received 331 applications, but Alabama CU won by getting 355. Both credit unions reported that everyone came out a winner because the contest prompted a significantly larger number of credit card applications than either organization typically receives.
The two credit unions in this year’s challenge are hoping for similar results.
At Notre Dame FCU, members who apply for credit cards have the opportunity to win a $50 Visa gift card every Friday leading up to the game by sharing or commenting on the credit union’s Facebook, Twitter, or other social media posts; or clicking the share buttons located on the campaign’s website atndfcu.org/beatusc. Also, eligible applicants will receive a free, commemorative “Onward to Victory!” rally towel.
At USC, all members who apply for a credit card during the campaign will receive a free USC Backpack and a chance to win a $50 USC Bookstore Gift Card. Also, all staff members will also be encouraged to share, tweet and post for a chance to win a weekly prize.
Next Page: The Indy Trifecta
Cheering for one team just isn’t enough for some credit unions.
“Indiana Members Credit Union is honored to be a sponsor of the Indianapolis Colts for the next three seasons, and we’re also proud to be an official partner of the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds and WHMB Channel 40’s ‘Game of the Week’ for the Indiana High School Athletic Association,” said Ron Collier, president/CEO of the $1.4 billion Indianapolis-based IMCU.
“Like the athletic programs we support, IMCU is a local organization that is committed to the community, teamwork and excellence,” Collier said.
The Colts sponsorship includes radio commercials, website advertising and signage in the hospitality areas for the team’s 30th season in Indianapolis. Led by second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts qualified for the NFL playoffs with an 11-5 record last season. All home games have been sold out for the past nine seasons, including the glory years for the Colts with Peyton Manning under center.
Sponsorships from credit unions and other supporters are crucial to the sport, said Jay Souers, senior vice president of sponsorship sales for the Colts.
“We thank IMCU for their support of the Indianapolis Colts because the support we receive from all our sponsors allows us to continually put a winning team on the field,” he added.
Collier said the combined initiatives have “proven successful so far, offering us the ability to reach out to fans and show our support in our community, which is a feature that we know our members appreciate.”
(IMCU, like other credit unions interviewed for this article, declined to provide the specific cost of the sponsorships.)
The partnership with the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds includes television and radio commercials, PA announcements, and logo placement on the UIndy Athletics home webpage, football and basketball schedules posters, game-day tickets, in the annual Greyhound Club calendar, and in various athletic facilities, stadiums and hospitality areas.
The credit union also sponsors WHMB Channel 40’s “Game of the Week” for the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s football and basketball games through 2014, which includes commercial spots before and during games, on air logo placement, logo placement on the station’s website, on-air interviews and recognition in press releases and website streamed games.
“We believe in supporting local organizations and are excited to begin these relationships,” Collier concluded. “We look forward to cheering on the Colts and the Greyhounds, and enjoying all the local high school football action on WHMB.”
Next Page: Bullish on South Florida
Grow Financial Credit Union, which has supported the University of South Florida’s football program for almost a decade, recently announced a continued partnership and a new move for the playbook.
This season, the $1.9 billion Tampa credit union introduced a new tweet-to-win promotion for Bulls fans. During home games, fans in specific rows are invited to watch the video board during the first quarter for college football trivia questions.
Participants use Twitter to answer and win prizes, including Grow Financial swag, such as reusable lunch totes, towels and gift cards, which are distributed during the third quarter by members of the USF athletics department.
“Grow Financial is very proud to continue our support of the University of South Florida again this year and fans seem to be enjoying the new tweet-to-win promotion,” said Allen Milliron, director of corporate sponsorships for the 160,000-member institution.
Grow Financial is also sponsoring the Hero of the Game, which recognizes local military members and veterans during home games.
The USF football sponsorship began nine years ago and accounts for about 9% of the credit union’s sponsorship budget, Milliron said, adding that the investment has paid off by building community rapport, raising brand awareness and increasing membership.
Over the years, the credit union has also contributed to the university’s general athletic fund. For example, Grow Financial donated $11,250 through its “More in Return” program in 2011 by pledging $10 for each USF punt and kickoff return during the regular season.
“The University of South Florida has achieved national prominence for the excellence of its academic and athletic programs,” said Brian Holloway, a USF graduate and assistant vice president of marketing for Grow Financial. “We’re very proud to be involved with this dynamic institution and contribute in our small way toward their success.”
Next Page: Meet Me in St. Louis
Scott Credit Union isn’t sitting on the sidelines this season.
The $930 million Air Force-based credit union recently inked a three-year sponsorship deal to become the official credit union of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.
The new partnership includes television and radio commercials during Rams programming, as well as signage in the Edward Jones Dome on game days and combined community events.
“What an honor for us to be able to tie our organization to a professional sports franchise that has fans on both sides of the river,” said Frank Padak, president/CEO of the Edwardsville, Ill., institution.
Scott CU will also partner with the Rams’ “Street Team” for several community events over the next three years. Plans are also underway to offer a St. Louis Rams debit card and checks.
To promote its new partnership, Scott CU and the Rams will give 200 tickets to a Nov. 3 game to military families during a team practice at Scott Air Force Base.
“What a great thank you to the military families for their service to our country,” Padak said. “It is our pleasure to provide the opportunity for them to take a break and attend a Rams’ home game.”
Next Page: San Diego Success Story
As the title sponsor of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl for almost a decade, the $6.2 billion SDCCU is a pro when it comes to football-related campaigns.
Each December, the bowl game sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association packs the house at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Cali.
The 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is set for Dec. 26. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Radio.
Over the years, SDCCU has used the bowl game to support the San Diego Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, donating a dollar for each ticket sold.
The partnership between SDCCU, Make-A-Wish and the Poinsettia Bowl has been in effect since the game began in 2005. During that time, more than 40 wishes have been granted to medically fragile children in San Diego from ticket sales.
The 248,000-member San Diego credit union also works with other organizations to sponsor youth football clinics each year. This summer, about 500 boys and girls attended local football clinics to learn skills and participate in drills taught by football coaches from area colleges, the credit union said.
Next Page: Visa's Financial Football
The popularity of pigskin is also helping to tackle financial literacy.
A growing number of credit unions are offering Financial Football, a free online and classroom money management program developed by Visa and the NFL.
For example, the $210 million UT Federal Credit Union in Knoxville used the program this year to help University of Tennessee Upward Bound students.
Financial Football puts players' fiscal knowledge to the test in an online simulation game environment by combining the structure and rules of the NFL with financial education questions. Classroom modules allow teachers to incorporate the game.
Since Financial Football’s debut in 2005, Visa has reached agreements with 38 states and the District of Columbia to share the game and curriculum with high schools and middle schools, the company said.
This week, the program was launched in Delaware with the help of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Brandon Stokley.
"Kids need to learn to make smart money management decisions early in life," Stokley said during a Financial Football kick-off event. "It takes the combined efforts of parents, teachers and mentors within the community to give teenagers a strong background in personal finance."
Other players have also supported the program.
Washington Redskins' linebacker London Fletcher and running back Alfred Morris to help showcase the game at a special event hosted by the $54 billion Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va. (Photo above.)
"Consumers of all ages need to learn to make smart money management decisions early in life," Fletcher told the audience. "You wouldn't get on the field without a game plan. You eed to plan your finances the same way."
Morris added this sage advice: "It doesn't matter whether you make minimum wage or millions. If you don't learn to budget, save, invest and pay bills on time, the consequences can be devastating."
Then, the two athletes, along with Navy Federal Branch Manager James Horner, rolled up their sleeves and led attendees in a high-energy game of Financial Football.
"Visa's Financial Football is a valuable program and we're thrilled to be a committed partner,” Homer said. “Teaching responsible, money management skills is not only a good thing to do; it's the right thing to do."
Next Page: Tigers in Ohio
Football promotions don’t have to be tied to the pros to be profitable.
Located in less than an hour from Cleveland and just minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Superior Savings CU is in the heart of football country and has leveraged the area’s athletic heritage for years as a way to connect with the community and to increase profits.
The institution in Massillon, Ohio, offers an annual CD promotion tied to the popular local team: Washington High School’s Massillon Tigers, named after the town’s former professional football team that played in the early 1900s for the Ohio League, a precursor to the NFL.
“This town is crazy about football and our members love the annual Tiger CDs,” said Deborah Hartke, CEO of the 2,800-member credit union. “One year, we brought in $7 million through the promotion, which was amazing because we’re small with about $24 million in assets.”
In past years, the rates for the special Tiger CDs would rise each time the Tigers won, but this season the credit union is offering tiered fixed rates.
"Due to the rate environment this year, we had to offer a fixed rate with no bump up," Hartke said. “If we would have done that we would have had to start too low for people to keep their money here. So, to be fair to the members, we just offered a solid rate to begin with because Tiger fans deserve the best.”
The credit union also sponsors football games on the local radio station and the Superior Player of the Week, which recognizes outstanding athletes.
Last year, the credit union also offered a Tiger Football Loan Promotion that rewarded members $5 to $15 every time the Massillon Tigers won during the regular season. Participating members received a rebate of up to $150 on qualified new loans.
“We have a ton of fun during football season and the members really seem to get into the team spirit,” Hartke added.