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A Much Smaller Player In Marketing But Still A Giant In The Industry

Charlotte Business Journal, April 17, 2015

By Erik Spanberg

Bank of America Corp. has reduced and recast its sponsorship spending in recent years, including its sports portfolio.

Signs of the evolving philosophy are abundant. Sponsorship consulting firm IEG estimates BofA spent $75 million on sponsorships in 2013, the most recent figure available. The total includes culture and arts as well as sports. One bit of cultural spending came in December, when the bank sponsored U2 singer Bono’s surprise Times Square concert that spotlighted the fight against AIDS.

In 2008, the bank’s sponsorships totaled $120 million, or 38% more than current spending levels.

“For a while, they were the poster child for big sponsorships,” says Jim Andrews, IEG senior vice president. But the economic collapse in 2008 “changed everything for them.”

BofA maintains a number of prominent sports deals, including the 20-year, $140 million stadium naming-rights agreement with the Carolina Panthers. That deal was signed in 2004.

It has been the official bank of Major League Baseball since 2004 and signed a similar, ongoing agreement with NASCAR in 2007.

In other ways, BofA has reduced its sports interests. Official bank deals with the NFL (a relationship started in 2007) and the Olympics (dating to 1992) lapsed in 2010. The bank gave up the leaguewide NFL deal but, in addition to the Panthers, it has advertising and marketing partnerships with the New England Patriots, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.

In the mid-2000s, BofA made an aggressive push into NASCAR. The bank signed deals with Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corp. to advertise at 10 tracks owned by the companies. Locally based Speedway Motorsports signed BofA as title sponsor for the October NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2006, a partnership that remains intact. The bank dropped all five International Speedway sponsorships and four of five (all but Charlotte) at Speedway Motorsports in 2012.

It’s still the official bank of NASCAR. The initial contract ended in 2011, but it has been extended.

A NASCAR spokesman says BofA expanded the relationship last year by becoming the presenting sponsor of “NASCAR Troops to the Track,” a program the sport started with the Armed Forces Foundation in 2009 to send military members to races with free tickets, driver introductions and VIP garage tours.

Last year, the bank extended, through the 2015 season, and expanded its relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick is the most popular and successful NASCAR team, and its drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne — make appearances for the bank. As part of the one-year contract signed for 2015, BofA became the presenting sponsor of the Hendrick racing website.

In golf, BofA offers a PGA Tour-branded MasterCard. New cardholders receive two tickets to a tournament of their choice. The bank entertains clients and prospects at tournaments through a separate arrangement with the Tour.

Beyond the MLB designation, BofA sponsors nine franchises, including the world champion San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Last fall, the bank signed a six-year contract to stay on as a sponsor of the New York Yankees, according to sister publication SportsBusiness Journal.

Charles Greenstein, based in Boston, runs sports marketing for the bank, a job he has held since 2010. A bank spokesman declined a CBJ interview request to discuss BofA’s sports partnerships or sponsorship strategy.

BofA still ranks among the 20 largest sponsorship companies in the U.S., according to the IEG analysis. Pepsi ($350 million annually), Coke ($290 million), Nike ($260 million) and Anheuser-Busch InBev ($255 million) were the top sponsors. The figures for all companies include culture, arts and other categories as well as sports.

Sports sponsorships account for the biggest shares of banks’ spending at 38%. Arts take 17%, cause marketing to help promote health, education and other issues also account for 17%, while festivals (14%) and entertainment (12%) are the other major expenditures for banks, IEG says.

No other U.S. bank spent as much as BofA in the IEG rankings. Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase trailed with $60 million each, followed by Wells Fargo at $45 million. Wells Fargo’s sports partnerships include putting the company name on Charlotte’s PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow, a national sponsorship with Major League Soccer and support of the UNC Tar Heels. Citi replaced BofA as the U.S. Olympic sponsor in 2012 and later signed on through the 2016 Games.

IEG’s Andrews says BofA is making sponsorship deals that are tied to outreach and benefit programs for military personnel and veterans and other feel-good causes. “There is more of a warm-and-fuzzy aspect so it’s not seen as just a big commercial,” he says. The promotions coincide with military holidays such as Memorial Day and major events such as the World Series.