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MADISON, Wis. – While you can judge a sports team by looking at its win/loss record, judging the effectiveness of a marketing campaign isn’t that easy, if even possible. But that doesn’t stop credit union marketers from trying to raise awareness about credit unions through touchdowns, hat tricks, slam dunks and home runs. Wisconsin credit unions, through their Wisconsin Credit Union League, have long teamed up with the football legend Green Bay Packers. “We’ve been on the Packers’ radio network long enough where we are building on that identity with one of the most popular sports teams around, not only in Wisconsin but nationally,” said Chris Olson, WCUL director of communications. “The Packers are really America’s team, a well-loved institution, and that was a good parallel for credit unions to advertise with, an identity that just made sense,” adding that Ryan Longwell, the Packers’ place kicker, as a spokesperson “was a logical addition to enhance what we have already been doing with the Packers. “Our analysis of the Packers radio network shows that, unlike the ads we do run on other stations during other campaigns in the year, the Packers network doesn’t draw just one kind of listener – those who listen to jazz or country or you name it. It’s drawing listeners from all of those stations,” she said. “We’ve never done measurements,” said Olson. “Our committee of credit union people that advises the league about our advertising doesn’t feel that that would be a fair analysis of our results. They feel that our job is to create awareness. It’s their job to bring the members in the door. “What you need to look at is how many people you are reaching per your advertising dollar and our ad agency has helped us assess that. Time and again, they really feel that our sports network has been a good investment for us. When you compare the number of ads airing, though, that’s where it gets hard for people to understand. For example, with our two-week (non-Packer) campaigns, we are running about 2,600 ads each campaign. That’s a lot of ads on a number of stations, strongly targeting females and that younger demographic. With the Packers, we are only airing six ads per game over 20 games. Comparatively, that is not a large number of ads. But where the value comes in is how many listeners you’re getting statewide through that vehicle. When you look at total rating points, and that’s how advertisers assess advertising’s effectiveness, the Packers … you can’t beat it.” The league renews its contract with the Packers on a three-year basis, said Olson, which holds increases to about 3% to 4% a year which translates into a savings of more than $10,000 annually. The contract also includes an escape clause. “One reason we went with the Packers was the statewide appeal that they have. We’ve done advertising in the past with the Wisconsin Badgers, the (University of Wisconsin-Madison) football team, but, in the long run, as budgets get tighter, there’s only so much you can do with that money. We felt that the Packers simply outshine all other teams for their ability to give us the kind of rating points because the listeners flock to them. All things being equal, that’s the team of choice.” In Michigan, credit unions also score with sport team partnerships. Lori Bahnmueller, vice president of association services for the Michigan Credit Union League, said youth is a big target market for credit unions. Research has shown that those in the 18-24 age group will stay with a financial institution 15 years on average, translating into student loans, car loans and perhaps first mortgages. “In Michigan, the demographics for sports enthusiasts is still strongly male although it is also strong among females.” Assessing the effectiveness of ad campaigns is “a continuing issue,” said Bahnmueller, “and credit unions must pick their sponsorships very shrewdly. They need to get the greatest bang for their buck.” The Southeast Michigan Credit Union Marketing Alliance (SEM-CUM) feel their ads are scoring goals. Mary Dahlke, alliance vice chair and secretary, said cooperative radio advertising using sports sponsorships appeals to the great number of credit unions in the Detroit metropolitan area and in outlying districts because sports are so popular there. “We’ve done the Red Wings consistently and the appeal of the Red Wings crosses to women,” said Dahlke. The group also has teamed up at times with the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers and this year is considering a proposal with the Detroit Pistons. Through the partnerships, alliance credit unions also can get sports premiums such as T-shirts or arrange promotions such as a credit union night at specific games. Credit unions may purchase caps or T-shirts for ancillary campaigns, offering, for example, a T-shirt when a member opens an account. “We’ve gone away from sports once in a while but we seem to come back to that as a niche for us. It not only benefits credit unions in the Detroit metropolitan area but some of the broadcasts go statewide. “As far as measuring effectiveness, that’s very difficult since (the campaign) is impacting so many credit unions. We could say that credit union membership continues to grow every year and so, yes, we could take credit for part of that growth but we don’t actually track specifics … we wouldn’t know how to do that,” said Dahlke. One thing that has provided impetus, she said, was focus groups research this year by MCUL. “One thing that jumped out was that a lot of people still don’t know what a credit union is and what a credit union does or they have a misconception that it is a union of some kind. From that research we were able to still pitch the case for cooperative advertising because the more people know what it is, the more they may go out and look to find a credit union. She said the difficulty in measuring the results of cooperative advertising in turn makes it difficult to get investment dollars because the credit unions want to know the benefits for them. “We pitch it from the standpoint that cooperative advertising benefits everybody, every credit union. Individually most of us can’t afford to do the multimedia campaigns and the big spending as some of our competition does so this is just kind of a get-in-and-pitch together. We still have to sell CUs. Some buy that and some don’t, quite frankly. It’s a challenge.”

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