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WASHINGTON – With but a few technical glitches, CUNA’s sponsorship of the Jan. 22 Hula Bowl in Hawaii – complete with “America’s Credit Unions” emblazoned on the turf and players with CU logos on their jerseys – was deemed “an absolute success” by the trade association. Though TV ratings were still forthcoming, the 58 participating CUs – all helping shoulder the $300,000 cost-generally found the “branding” publicity before an estimated three million viewers provided positive publicity to individual institutions and to the industry as a whole. “You know when you are doing something like this the first time you’re bound to run into production problems, but I think CUNA and Kenny Hansmire can get control in the future,” declared Bruce Brumfield, president of Founders FCU in Lancaster, S.C. The South Carolina CEO was referring to last-minute time constraints imposed by ESPN, the cable TV network, skipping pre-planned broadcast mention of CUs tied to the introduction of individual college football players. Hansmire, representing the American Football Coaches Association, which with a production firm helped put on the bowl game at a Maui stadium, has long worked with CUNA and state leagues through distribution of the National Child ID kits, a venture also sponsored by the coaches group. Brumfield said because of an injury of a University of South Carolina star player Founders went ahead and agreed to sponsor North Carolina State Defensive Back LeMott Ried as well as Virginia Tech Quarterback Brian Randall. “The best part for us,” said Brumfield were special on-field honors given to 14-year-old, Joey Gayko, son of a Founders employee and suffering from cancer. The. youngster, who did the coin toss and who despite his illness has collected gifts for hospitalized children in Charlotte, N.C., had been flown to Maui with his family for the special tribute. Apart from the expenses for the Gayko family and for other Founders staff brought to Hawaii, the South Carolina CU had to pay a $5,000 fee for every player it sponsored and on that score Brumfield said he expects to derive plenty of goodwill with local universities. He also said the jerseys can be hung in the CU’s branches to be raffled off. Kim Hudson, vice president of marketing at the $81 million Credit Union of Ohio in Columbus, said the Hula sponsorships of two Ohio State University players were well worth it in strengthening CU ties with the school’s athletic department and faculty and in new member recruitment. “You know with those banker attacks and the frequent negative publicity that it generates, it’s awfully nice to see credit unions getting some positive press,” observed Hudson. Under the sponsorship deal, the two Ohio State players, Dustin Fox and Lydell Ross, were to wear jerseys with the CU logo and under the agreement the CU name would appear on-screen with statistical information about the player and in the game program. “There was quite a buzz about our sponsorship and it was really amazing that members stopped right in their tracks when they heard about our Maui promotion of a free trip to Hawaii,” said Hudson. Gary Lanier, senior vice president of Eastern Financial Florida CU in Miramar, said “the name recognition of our credit union linked up with a local college was really very positive.” “The word got spread on campus and we heard about it in the neighborhood sports bars where fans watched the game,” said Lanier whose CU teamed up with Florida Atlantic University to host a Hula Bowl Party honoring two former FAU students who played in the game. Gary Kohn, CUNA vice president of legislative affairs and Hula Bowl coordinator, acknowledged “there was some disappointment” about the missed CU introductions but CUNA’s 30-second TV spots and the overall production appeared to receive a favorable reception from the public including many Hawaii civic leaders lauding CUNA. The telecast had been shown to an estimated two million viewers on ESPN and another one million on the Armed Forces Radio Network. With changes in the format, plans are to continue Hula sponsorship with the coaches group in 2006, Kohn said. [email protected]

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