Capitol One sports mascot promotion

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Capital One Financial Corp. will take a different path to build on its sponsorship of college football-bench the quarterback and send in the mascot.

A promotion to select the top college football team mascot will lead up to its sponsorship of the newly named Capital One Bowl, and broadcasts of "ESPN Bowl Week." Ads, from Bayless/Cronin, Atlanta, feature ESPN on-air personalities hosting a selection process similar to a beauty pageant for team mascots. Viewers will be encouraged to vote for their favorite online.

Capital One decided it wanted a very irreverent advertising effort, "a little ESPN campaign and a little Capital One campaign," said Bill McDonald, exec VP-brand marketing. "The big traditional brands would gravitate to the star quarterback. ... We think there's a lot of fun in the unsung hero."


This effort complements the company's "What's in your wallet?" campaign, which has featured dancing chimps and marauding posses to promote credit card features. Capital One has positioned itself as a maverick in the credit card industry, so it made sense to partner with ESPN, another maverick brand, Mr. McDonald said.

The college football sponsorship is a good way to target "the elusive 18 to 35 [year-old] male," he said. The company signed up in June to become sole sponsor of the Citrus Bowl, renamed the Capital One Bowl.

The first commercial will introduce the 12-member All-America Mascot Team and upcoming spots will follow the team through the selection process. The winner will be revealed in the last ad, which will air during the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.

Event sponsorship is an important part of Capital One's strategy, Mr. McDonald said. Besides the continued sponsorship of college football, Capital One was also a sponsor of this year's Emmy Awards broadcast and will sponsor a figure skating broadcast featuring Olympic medalist Sarah Hughes, which will air on Christmas Day.

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"What that gives you is the look of a leader in the category," Mr. McDonald said.

Capital One is an ad-spending leader in the financial services category, ranking just after the big three credit cards, American Express Co., Visa USA and MasterCard International.

The bank-one of the largest Visa and MasterCard issuers in the U.S.-has kept its marketing spending level, while most financial companies have reduced their spending during the market downturn. Capital One spent $170 million in media last year and $96 million in the first half of 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

The company and its media agency, Publicis Groupe's Starcom Mediavest, is "buying opportunistically" to increase its exposure, Mr. McDonald said. Additional spots in the core "What's in your wallet?" campaign will break for the fourth-quarter holiday season.

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