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SEATTLE – They may not have been big players, so to speak, but credit unions in at least three major TV markets cashed in on Super Bowl advertising during the big football championship game Feb. 5. Indeed, in Seattle where the underdog Seahawks succumbed to the favored Pittsburgh Steelers, a 30-second, fun-loving and youth-oriented advocacy ad, paid for by a coalition led by the Washington Credit Union League, was seen by millions throughout the Northwest. “I think it’s fair to say that the ad here easily reached over two million people and the ratings were the highest ever recorded for a Super Bowl in the Seattle market,” crowed Ed Steenman, head of a suburban Seattle ad firm and lead creator for a $70,000 ad commissioned by the Washington Credit Union League, 20 CUs and Financial Service Centers Cooperative of San Dimas, Calif. The TV commercial, of which CUs across Washington State created plenty of media hoopla and their own version of Super Bowl hype, ran during the half time show. While league leadership gratefully accepted congratulations from peers across the U.S. for getting a Super Bowl spot at a bargain rate, CU marketers argued that the effort, both locally and elsewhere to bring a positive CU message before the public, needs to be vigorously repeated. “That was a new version of the ad and that was great but we need to get more people to hear our message beyond a 30-second commercial,” said Ron Rogerson, senior vice president of marketing at the $600 million Kitsap Community FCU in Bremerton. But in Atlanta as well as in Pittsburgh the CU story and awareness theme was heard on Super Bowl Sunday courtesy of league campaigns in those states. Georgia Credit Union Affiliates said it ran a 30-second ad in its “Georgia Credit Unions, You’ll Like Us Better” campaign at the end of the game, estimating the commercial on WSB-TV, the ABC affiliate, reached 878,000 households in metro Atlanta. “Georgia credit unions once again made advertising history,” boasted a league press release which stressed that CUs in the state have now been positioned “among the advertising ranks of the country’s largest and most recognized corporations.” GCUA identified four Georgia CUs as funding the ad on a cooperative basis and they included: Associated Credit Union, Delta Community Credit Union, Georgia Telco Credit Union and Lockheed Georgia Employees’ Federal Credit Union. “Advertising during the most watched network television broadcast of the year enables us to significantly bolster awareness,” said Michael Mercer, GCUA president/CEO. The willingness of Georgia CUs to fund the endeavor “demonstrates the power of collaboration and a real understanding of the need to be proactive in our approach to attract and retain members.” Both the Georgia and Washington leagues stressed that their Super Bowl ads on both TV and radio would be repeated on local shows during the coming weeks as part of overall ad buys made in 2005. GCUA added that it was able to get a Super Bowl spot just following the game as a result of past ad placements and “collective purchasing power.” In Pittsburgh, CUs also relied on past co-op ad purchases to win what a spokesman called “a very lucky spot” on a post-game ABC show to air a previously-taped shared branch promotion. “It was simply great to have a big audience see our ad on a local channel as we celebrated a Steeler victory,” declared Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, which helped negotiate airtime for the TV ad on behalf of Pittsburgh CUs. PCUA officials were particularly pleased over the huge ratings spike for that particular show. “We’ve been told that the commercial aired at 10:58 p.m. and received a 37% market share and when you consider the typical prime time show gets 8-12%, that’s phenomenal,” said a PCUA spokeswoman, adding the six-county Pittsburgh market has a population of 1.8 million The shared branch ad is part of a six-month, $80,000 campaign launched last year in the Pittsburgh market with the ABC station and which is set to resume in 2006. The ads were contracted for by Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers, a Harrisburg-based CUSO managed by PCUA. Under the contract, said Wishnow, “the station gives us 40 spots a month but this time they gave us the bonus spot appearing on the post game show,” said Wishnow. While CUs and their leagues were devoting serious attention – and dollars – to the ad buys, CU staffs in Washington State and Pennsylvania were having fun paying off Super Bowl bets which in some instances quickly became charity donations. In one joint statement, GHCU of Seattle and PA HealthCare System of Pittsburgh, said that even though GHCU was obligated to ship a box load of salmon, chowder and pickles to PA HealthCare System, the two CUs agreed to give a $500 cash donation to a Seattle children’s hospital. “Instead of sending us the wonderful Seattle items, I would change the wager to instead be a donation to Operation Crayon at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle,” wrote Joe Fero, CEO of PA HealthCare. The two emphasized this was another example of the CU “people helping people” philosophy. Rogerson of Kitsap said his CU paired up with Lanco FCU in Lancaster, Pa. and it would be paying off its debt (apple cider and confections) in a $100 donation to a Pennsylvania dog handler, which provides services to the blind. One Lanco employee who is blind relies on the service, said Rogerson. Robert Harvey and Norbert Kaczmarek, respective chairmen of the Washington and Pennsylvania Leagues, agreed to change their bets of Riesling wine (Washington) and Hershey chocolates to National Credit Union Foundation contributions. “Bob Harvey has agreed to send $200 to the Pennsylvania CU Foundation, and Erie FCU will match it for a total contribution to their foundation of $400,” said a Washington League statement. “Bob, however, is going to send Erie FCU’s president a Seattle Metropolitan CU sweatshirt.” Harvey is president/CEO of Seattle Metropolitan CU and Kaczmarek is CEO of Erie FCU. All told, John Annaloro, president/CEO of the Washington League said its latest tally shows $1,200 in charitable contributions have been collected from Washington and Pennsylvania CUs. In addition, Annaloro, whose league offered a case of Riesling wine in case the Seahawks lost, told his counterpart, Jim McCormack at PCUL, they would be sending him “personally, a sampling of Washington wine which the WCUL thinks also may be viewed as a charitable donation.” -

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