The Biz: BofA national push gets local treatment

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The Bank of America brand is as big as its name suggests, with branches in 21 states in the U.S., but wants its marketing message to reach consumers through hometown heroes.

So News Corp.'s Fox Sports Net and Bank of America teamed up this summer to promote the bank's "higher standard" national ad campaign theme in local baseball and college football and basketball games, and they hope to extend the strategy soon to National Basketball Association and National Hockey League regional coverage.

The strategy, which might be called a "think national, act local" tactic, linked Bank of America's "higher standard" slogan to events and personalities within ballgames, and complements local media buys with targeted spots within games. The package also involved pushing the "higher standard" theme in stadium signs, print ads, and local sweepstakes and giveaways. The total local ad spending in a half season of baseball and college sports was estimated at about $5 million. On a national level, Bank of America spent $72 million so far this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

"This is a way to reach to local audiences, taking a national brand and bringing it close to home," said Cathy Bessant, corporate marketing and communications executive at Bank of America. "Fox is committed to being the hometown sports network and we have a large national presence, which is the sum of our hometown banks. This is the first time we tried this and it's been such a success that we'd like to expand it."

customized

"It's the biggest we have ever done along these lines covering both regional and national and was totally customized just for them," said Kyle Sherman, exec VP-national spot sales at Fox.

The media commitment in baseball, devised by Fox and Bank of America's ad agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, led by Peter Gardiner, partner and chief media officer, and Karen DeLuca, associate media director, aligned the bank brand with everything from a hitter's televised spray chart-a graphic showing where each player tends to hit-to "higher standard" player profiles, which are basically graphic interstitial bios about top players. For the St. Louis Cardinals, Bank of America also sponsored the Cardinal's Care program, a charitable organization funded by the St. Louis Cardinals and a local community fund that provides outreach programs to local children in St. Louis.

60 million homes

"Bank of America bought a customized package from us that paid particular attention to the markets that were important to them," says Sherman. "They didn't buy Boston, Minneapolis or New York, where they are not as active. They bought into games in St. Louis, San Francisco, Dallas and Los Angeles, where they have businesses, representing about 60 million homes."

Bank of America expanded this program into national network college sports coverage, specifically into Fox's three college packages: basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference, football in the Big 12 and football and basketball in the Pac 10, as well as in the Pac 10 conference men's and women's tournament. The "higher learning" mantra was integrated into these games with profiles and televised charts. They also ran these elements in regional games in the ACC and Big 12.

Bank of America's sponsorship of the Pac 10 Conference also included an opportunity for a contestant to win a trip to a Pac 10 game, and a chance to shoot on-court in front of a national TV audience for a million miles on Alaska Airlines during a tournament semifinal.

Fox is talking to Bank of America to expand the "think national, act local" approach to locally televised NBA and NHL games. "Hopefully, we can convince them, through the relationship with baseball and college sports that there is a higher standards message that we can communicate to a meaningful audience in the NBA and the NHL," Sherman says.

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