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Super Platform? B of A, NFL in Sponsorship Pact

MARKETS, August 16, 2007

Paul Davis, MARKETS; Pg. 20 Vol. 172 No. 158

With its deal to become the official bank of the National Football League, Bank of America Corp. is solidifying its standing as the industry's largest corporate sponsor.

The three-year deal, expected to be unveiled today, gives the $1.5 trillion-asset Charlotte company exclusive rights to use the NFL logo and other trademarked icons, such as the Super Bowl's, on products through the 2009 season. It also includes advertising on NFL-controlled media channels such as the NFL Network and

B of A has been developing a national sports platform for marketing products and services. It signed a five-year agreement with Major League Baseball in 2004, and in November it became the official bank of Nascar. Also, B of A is an official sponsor of next year's Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Susan Faulkner, B of A's deposits and debit executive, would not say how much the NFL deal is worth, though a source familiar with it put the cost at $9 million to $10 million. The Major League Baseball agreement was estimated to cost more than $40 million.

Ms. Faulkner also would not discuss the bottom-line impact, though she said in an interview that initially B of A expects to issue up to 100,000 sports-related affinity checking products a year, which would represent 40% of all its affinity accounts but just 4% of all its new checking accounts.

"This deal with the NFL is a natural extension of where we want to go with affinity checking," she said. "We'll also be able to use marketing and advertising promotions at events such as the Super Bowl."

Affinity checking is a relatively new field for B of A, which began issuing such products in May. It is building on a large affinity credit card platform set up by MBNA Corp., the issuer it acquired in January of last year.

Ms. Faulkner said B of A will offer special promotions with its NFL accounts, such as an improved version of its Keep the Change program, in which debit purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred to a savings account. B of A matches 5% of such savings a year with regular checking accounts, but it will match 10% with accounts tied to the NFL program.

Last year B of A was the nation's 15th-largest corporate sponsor of sports, art events, and other activities - and the largest among banking companies - spending $100 million to $105 million, according to IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago newsletter published by IEG LLC. That range would be 25% more than B of A's 2005 sponsorship costs, but just 5% of its overall marketing expenses last year.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. came in a distant second among banking companies last year, at $50 million to $55 million of spending, according to the newsletter. Wachovia Corp. spent $25 million to $30 million, while Wells Fargo & Co. spent $20 million to $25 million.

William Chipps, IEG's senior editor, said the fact that the NFL deal does not give B of A automatic access to team-specific affinity products could create challenges landing customers.

"Fans are fans of teams and not the NFL," he said in an interview Wednesday. "But it can also be a challenge to lock up individual teams, so it may be easier to go out and sponsor a national property, such as the NFL...rather than trying to actively manage a number of regional deals."

Wachovia has sponsorship deals with the New York Giants, the Miami Dolphins, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in which the Charlotte company has exclusive marketing rights and automated teller machine access in those teams' stadiums.

JPMorgan Chase has a sponsorship deal with the Chicago Bears, inheriting a 12-year deal reached in 2003 by Bank One Corp., which JPMorgan Chase bought in 2004. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is two years into a 10-year agreement with the Pittsburgh Steelers that gives the company exclusive sponsorship rights and the ability to offer affinity debit cards and special checking packages.<

Ms. Faulkner said the draw of the NFL or Super Bowl icons should not be underestimated. "People readily identify with those symbols. People look beyond just their teams ... so we see this as a clear differentiator compared to other competitors."

B of A also has deals with the Carolina Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the New England Patriots. Those teams will be featured in a line of affinity checks and debit cards due out today. Checks and cards bearing the NFL logo will follow in November, Ms. Faulkner said.

The company already issues credit cards carrying the brands of each of the league's 32 teams.