SunAmerica banks on boomer crowd

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SunAmerica Mutual Funds will lighten its marketing efforts this week with its first TV ads, part of an effort to scoop up baby boomers' spreading retirement funds.

The mutual funds company will begin running its spots on cable networks including CNBC and Fox sports. The spots ask viewers, "Where do you want to be?" over shots of leisure activities such as skiing and surfing, followed by the tag, "SunAmerica mutual funds can help you get there."

LIFESTYLE

"It's pushing the issue of baby boomers looking for a more leisurely lifestyle," said Betsy Treitler, VP-marketing and communications.

The campaign will break with a branding spot, followed by a more product-specific message touting the company's Focused Investing funds. Efforts will concentrate on key markets, including Chicago, New York, Phoenix and San Francisco.

MLB SPONSOR

SunAmerica only began advertising two years ago, mainly via outdoor boards and stadium signage as part of its sponsorship of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, as well as with on-air promotions on radio broadcasts of Yankee games. A year ago, the company expanded its efforts into a targeted print campaign in financial publications.

SunAmerica is a relatively small company -- with $8 billion in assets and another $35 billion in sub-advisory assignments for other investment companies -- so it tended to advertise very selectively, Ms. Treitler said. She did not disclose spending for the latest effort. Parent SunAmerica Corp. spent $15 million in measured media in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The new campaign is aimed both at individuals and at financial advisers, who are the funds' main distribution channel, Ms. Treitler said. The move into TV was an effort to increase the company's visibility with both groups at once, she added.

"So many of our competitors are [on TV]. If you're not there, it's more of a disadvantage," Ms. Treitler said.

Small financial services companies have become more aggressive marketers in the late 1990s, in order to get a larger slice of the assets of aging boomers and to compete in a diversified financial services marketplace.

Thanks to the deregulation of financial services, many players have been able to diversify into new areas, such as insurers venturing into retirement planning, banks into brokerage services and brokers into trust management.

INSPIRATION

The campaign evolved from the company's electronic efforts, Ms. Treitler said. The images that appear in the spots were originally shot for a CD-ROM disc aimed at broker-dealers developed by Electric Media, Chester, N.J., SunAmerica's online agency. While watching other TV spots, Ms. Treitler realized the images would work well on-screen and asked the agency to develop the spot. Eventually, the images will be integrated into mutual fund Web site sunamericafunds.com.

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