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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – When you talk Super Bowl superlatives, the 2006 winner has to be Washington State credit unions for pulling off an unprecedented feat: a 30-second advocacy commercial reaching perhaps millions during the championship Seattle Seahawks/Pittsburgh Steelers game in Detroit. Across the nation, credit unions were giving `high fives’ to the Washington Credit Union League and 20 of its member CUs, and shared branching firm FSCC, who together put up $70,000 to purchase airtime to broadcast the commercial on KOMO, the Seattle ABC affiliate. “All I can say is `wow’ – that’s wonderful exposure for credit unions and just shows how we have stepped up our advertising so we could reach this level nationally,” declared Renee Dickson, chairman of CUNA’s Marketing and Business Development Council and product marketing manager at Wings Financial FCU in Apple Valley, Minn. Of course, the cost of a national TV spot by CUs or their trade groups would have been prohibitive but that didn’t stop the expressions of elation and excitement among top execs at the Washington Credit Union League regarding the Super Bowl buy. “I’d call it dumb luck that we could get this spot at that rate,” said Kevin Foster-Keddie, president/CEO of the Washington State Employees CU of Olympia, and the prime mover in the league’s three-year-old TV/radio ad campaign, “Together, Better.” The original rate contract for the ad, as it appeared on the Super Bowl and produced by a Seattle agency, Steenman Associates, was actually signed by Foster-Keddie and KOMO, the ABC affiliate in August. But the league CU consortium had started negotiations with area TV and radio stations last spring. It was not until just a month ago “that a light went off as I was driving to work one day that the Seahawks could really be in the Super Bowl and that we had locked down a low rate,” said Foster-Keddie. Indeed, the original rate was $42,000 for 30-seconds but the contract provided the price would be increased to $72,000 if the Seahawks advanced with the final rate “locked in,” explained Foster-Keddie. Meanwhile other Northwest corporate advertisers were paying double or triple that amount for a similar 30-second slot. And, of course, as league officials point out, broadcast of the specially-produced ad brings exposure to the CU cause before a huge audience across the Northwest. That audience includes not only male Seahawk fans but women, too, who tune in to watch the commercials, studies show. The Super Bowl ad itself, which was shot by the agency with local actors less than three weeks ago, is a freshened version of an ongoing $500,000 set of commercials debuted in September before the annual meeting of the league and featuring a youthful, hip rock theme. The league’s overall ad campaign introduced three years ago to promote shared branching has been tweaked more recently to promote advocacy and thwart banker attacks using the humorous, youthful theme. Indeed, the Super Bowl ad contains an emphasis on how much fun it is do business with a CU and what a wise choice it is. The ad is highlighted by catchy music, which its creator, Ed Steenman, maintains, “extols the virtues of credit unions and how they benefit their members.” The Super Bowl ad was produced “to suit its placement in the Super Bowl by presenting an upbeat old school hip hop concept.” Songs on the ad are performed by a pair of Seattle musicians who are members of Groovology, a local band. In a press release, the league and Steenman boasted about the TV ad being seen “by more viewers at one time than any other Northwest TV commercial ever.” About 20 CUs, the league and shared branching firm FSCC fund the campaign. More CUs are likely to join, said Foster-Keddie. “That number I expect has jumped to 25 since we’ve had more credit unions who want to sign up with the program,” noted Foster-Keddie explaining that the Super Bowl ad is to be repeated in later weeks on other network stations and on radio in the Seattle market. Steenman forecast that because the Seahawks are appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, “this Sunday’s game is sure to be the highest rated television program in Seattle history.” In what might be likened to a media frenzy orchestrated by league staffers during Super Bowl week, other network stations in Seattle including an NBC affiliate began doing interviews with CU representatives and CEOs discussing the specially made commercial. “At a time like this when there is this much excitement, it is important to generate some buzz for credit unions,” explained Jamie Chase, the league’s director of communications, who scheduled half a dozen interviews at radio stations and newspapers in metro Seattle. CEOs joined Chase at many of the stops during the media tour. The “Sneak Peak” ad tour held Feb. 1 was conducted, she said, to let the media view the ad and as a backdrop she had brought in the musicians -all wearing Seahawks jerseys – to perform a live concert One flier touted the history of the CUs “locking in such a great rate” and another invited media to “learn about the making of a Super Bowl ad with local producer Fueled Creative LLC and the Steenman Associates” ad agency. The flier concluded that Seahawk fans “can’t wait to get a sneak peek of Super Bowl XL, their Seahawks and of course the ads that premiere during the game.” Robert Harvey, chairman of the Washington League who was scheduled to do one of the media stops, said the Super Bowl ad “has given us a wonderful opportunity to get our message out,” It’s also satisfying “to see this much excitement” in Seattle and within the CU community, said Harvey, who also is president of Seattle Metropolitan CU. -

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