the U.S. Olympic Team and other activities related to next year's summer games in Sydney, according to analysts that track sports sponsorships.
That compares to the $100 million spent by its predecessor company NationsBank Corp., which was the exclusive bank sponsor of the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.
Analysts say Sydney-based Westpac Banking Corp. will pay $20 million to be the official bank sponsor of the 2000 summer games, but that amount does not include all the money Westpac is likely to lay out for advertising and entertainment related to the Olympics.
Bank of America said it has opted for a lesser role this time around because the company has only 15 offices in Australia. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank has 4,800 U.S. branches.
Money spent on the Sydney games will enhance Bank of America's status as a "national brand," analysts said. But they questioned whether that aura can be turned into quantifiable profits.
The Olympic connection is "consistent with the company's drive to establish a premium financial-services brand name," said Michael Mayo, a bank analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston Inc. "But it's never crystal clear whether every dollar spent is worth it."
The company, which would not specify how much it will spend on the Olympics, has created a traveling exhibit about the Sydney games that will visit 48 cities around the United States over the next 12 months. It started last week in New York.
The tour will cost the $614 billion-asset company more than $10 million, said William Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago newsletter. Bank of America will also spend about $5 million to become the only bank sponsoring the U.S. Olympic Team, analysts estimate. In addition, the company will pay more than $10 million to be NBC Television's exclusive bank advertiser during the summer games, analysts said.
Bank of America will pay for additional advertising, promotion, and executive entertainment at the games.
The Olympic tie-in "sets us apart," said Dockery Clark, Bank of America's director of Olympic marketing. The company's sponsorship has three major components, she said.
First, there is the exhibit, which features an inflatable replica of the Sydney Opera House. "For those who can't get to the games, we'll bring the sounds and sights to you," Ms. Clark said.
Second, the bank's deal to be "the exclusive bank advertiser" of the games on NBC, which runs for the next five Olympics, through 2008.
Third, the company is hiring five ex-Olympians -- gymnast Mary Lou Retton, track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, volleyball player Karch Kiraly, basketball great Sheryl Swoopes, and swimmer Pablo Morales -- to give motivational speeches to employees and do community work with them.
While stressing Bank of America's national brand, the Olympic connection will help the bank's overall image too, analysts said. "What the Olympics represent to people is positive imagery as far as teamwork et cetera," said the editor, Mr. Chipps.
A study by Visa International Inc. found that those consumers who knew Visa had been an Olympic sponsor rated it higher than those who did not know, said Rob Prazmark, president of Olympic marketing at International Management Group, a sports and entertainment agency in New York.
Visa will spend $25 million to be a sponsor of the Sydney games, analysts said.
Bank of America's Ms. Clark argues that the positive sentiment can bring in customers. "The days are over when you can just give away a toaster when someone opens an account," she said. "We can bring a lot of financial solutions to help people reach their dreams. That's the spirit we're trying to build, and we think the Olympic movement helps us do that."
Bank of America is not worried that the Olympic bribery scandal in Salt Lake City this year will hurt, Ms. Clark said. The scandal made some sponsors skittish, but "our commitment to the Olympic movement is unwavering," she said.
Analysts had mixed views on the scandal's impact. Ward Randall, managing partner of the Brand Consultancy in Norcross, Ga., said some of the unfavorable publicity might rub off on Bank of America.
Stephen Greyser, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, agreed that "the events of Salt Lake City have tainted the value of the core property." But that blemish "will fade pretty quickly, as the Olympics themselves get nearer," he said. "The focal point will again be on what most people think of the Olympics -- competition, not the machinations of people in business suits."
To make the spending pay off, Prof. Greyser said, Bank of America must bring key existing customers, prospective customers, and vendors to the games and entertain them in high style. "It's an opportunity for people to feel they're on the inside of something they wouldn't otherwise be." Bank of America officials would not discuss such plans.
Whatever the company's entertainment efforts, it will be difficult to determine whether all the Olympics spending pays off, analysts said. "There may or may not be cheaper ways to establish a brand name," said Mr. Mayo of Credit Suisse. "The nature of the payback in this is cloudy."