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NORTH HIGHLANDS, Calif. -SAFE Credit Union recently lured new members with the samba-beat of a Brazilian inspired Carnaval at this year’s California State Fair. Held each year at Sacramento’s Cal Expo, the 18-day California State Fair typically attracts anywhere from 30,000 attendees on a weekday, to more than 100,000 on the weekends. “We’re making an investment in brand awareness,” said SAFE CU Vice President of Marketing Faith Galati. “You just can’t find a better venue that reaches more people in our community.” With the virtually limitless opportunity available for building branch recognition, the $935 million credit union decided that success was contingent not only on allocating sufficient funds to the event but also creating a program that would really appeal to potential members. Enter a Carnaval theme. “Participation in Carnaval was a serious commitment,” said Galati. “It accounted for roughly 10 percent of our annual marketing budget.” First came an incentive program that awarded two free fair tickets (with a value of $18) to anyone opening a new checking account. That alone earned SAFE a whopping 1,500 checking accounts. Then with a Mardi Gras look and feel, SAFE CU opened the Carnaval with a nighttime parade through a special section of the fairgrounds where the SAFE CU capitol dome logo flashed on banners. At the center of the Carnaval section, staffed by SAFE employees, a booth offered fairgoers a free spin on a wheel of fortune – an attraction that drew lines of more than a dozen people. Prizes included Carnaval T-shirts, bead necklaces, a free $25 for opening a SAFE account and boxes of SAFE Credit Union checks – with plenty of help nearby for filling out a quick membership form. In addition, a raffle drawing for three-day vacation packages drew even more traffic. According to Galati and SAFE President and CEO Henry Wirz, the Carnaval was an investment that pays big dividends. By the time the fair ended and the last Carnaval parade conga-danced into the sunset, SAFE CU successfully signed up approximately 2,000 new members. Wirz says the recent jump in memberships further accelerated a growth spurt in 2002 that is annualized at approximately 7%. He also credits that expansion to a building boom during the last two years, with SAFE CU opening three new branches last year, with a fourth under construction and slated to open in December. “At the end of the day, we owe our growth to paying close attention to the needs of our members, constantly meeting demand for convenience with SAFE’s ability to innovate. But it all starts with getting your name out there, and giving people a chance to give you a chance,” Wirz said. “Our partnership with the California State Fair was a terrific way to introduce ourselves to thousands of potential members.” [email protected]

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