Bank of America Corp., which has won praise for its disciplined approach to measuring new and increased business that resulted from client entertainment at sponsored golf tournaments, has begun applying similar rigor to gauge whether all of its sports sponsorships are meeting their objectives.

Eventually, the company plans to hold arts and cultural sponsorships to the same type of test, said Joseph Goode, spokesperson for Bank of America’s global marketing group. “We are getting our arms around those types of properties and inventorying the things we do with them to bring some uniformity.”

The emphasis on measurement builds on the groundwork laid by Bank of America’s previous sponsorship management.

“This is not something new, but we’re taking it to an entirely new level,” said Ray Bednar, who was hired in February as the company’s top sponsorship executive, a position vacant since Dockery Clark departed in autumn ’04. “This process is about increasing shareholder value and wealth,” he added.

One of the reasons Bank of America plucked Bednar from his previous role as sponsorship agency PRISM’s CEO for North and South America, was that firm’s work in developing evaluation and measurement systems based on the Six Sigma process for clients such as Xerox Corp.

“The idea is to look at the assets in our portfolio, analyze how they perform against our objectives and conduct a financial analysis to see how they stack up,” Bednar said. “We know how much money we’re spending on rights fees and activation, and we know the income streams that are generated through consumer promotions and business from the sponsored property, as well as the marketing value of those partnerships.”

As senior vice president and sports sponsorship executive, Bednar oversees an organization with an extensive sports portfolio that includes relationships with the USOC, Major League Baseball and more than 100 other national, regional and local properties (see chart).

Bank of America’s grassroots community, cause and arts sponsorships are managed separately through the company’s network of local market offices. A list of Bank of America’s non-sports sponsorships by region can be found at www.BankofAmerica.com/sponsorships.

A particular area of focus for Bednar is gaining business from sponsored properties.

“When we sponsor as an official bank, we really want to be the official bank of the property,” he said. “We want their corporate banking, investment, payroll, retirement, financing and wealth management business. We want to develop a universal relationship as part of our investment.”

Case in point: The bank will help the MLB New York Yankees finance the team’s new stadium, Bednar said.

Continuation Of “Concentrate To Dominate” Strategy
Upon the completion of its merger with FleetBoston Financial Corp. in March ’04, Bank of America embarked on a new sponsorship approach designed to capitalize on its expanded, nearly national footprint.

Dubbed “concentrate to dominate,” the goal was to gain “ownership” of key sports through national and local sponsorships that can be activated on both levels, Bednar said. (See sidebar for current activation details.)

Bank of America launched the strategy in June ’04 by proclaiming itself “the official bank of baseball” after signing new deals with Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, Little League Baseball and Softball, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The bank also sponsors 68 minor league teams, has official bank sponsorships with 10 MLB teams, and–following its acquisition of credit card issuer MBNA Corp. earlier this year–is the affinity card partner for 23 MLB franchises.

The company has brought the strategy into auto racing through deals with track-owning giants Int’l Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. for the ’06 season. Each partnership gives Bank of America cosponsorship and official bank status of five tracks in what the bank identifies as “high growth” markets.

The SMI partnership includes title to the October NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., near the company’s Charlotte headquarters. Bank of America also gained title rights to the June Nextel Cup race at Delaware’s Dover Int’l Speedway as a result of its MBNA acquisition.

Tweaks Golf Sponsorships; Integrates MBNA Ties
In golf, Bank of America titles the Colonial–the PGA Tour stop in Fort Worth, Texas–as well as the Bank of America Championship, the PGA Champions Tour stop in Concord, Mass.

The bank is dropping the Colonial title in favor of cosponsor status beginning with the ’07 tournament. “Our brand awareness is nearly 100 percent,” Goode said. “Our sweet spot is client hospitality; we don’t need the big media buy that comes with a sponsorship like that.”

Bank of America takes its Hogan’s Alley hospitality program to roughly 20 PGA Tour events each year.

Also on the hospitality front, Bank of America this year rolled out a new Leadership on the Links program, which offers access to some of the country’s best golf courses. The company will use the program to host clients and prospects for its wealth management and other business lines.

The bank is integrating the pro sports and other partnerships inherited from MBNA into its sponsorship portfolio, Goode said. “The acquisition afforded us a tremendous amount of synergy in the sponsorship area, and we’re still integrating a lot of those properties into our portfolio. We’re looking at how we can adopt their affinity card model into our affinity banking model.”

Bank of America leveraged its rights to the June Nextel Cup race formerly known as the MBNA 400 to tout its community involvement. It renamed the race the Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America and leveraged the tie with community revitalization projects that involved NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Kasey Kahne and Scott Wimmer.