Bank of America Gets Lift From Sports Link in Oregon

BankAmerica Corp. has netted new business and name recognition in basketball-crazy Oregon by teaming up with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Signing on as the professional team's lead corporate sponsor, the bank's Oregon unit has saturated the market with tie-in promotions and advertising.

Before the National Basketball Association playoffs began in April, Bank of America Oregon launched a statewide checking promotion dubbed BlazerBanking.

The promotion, which included 200 free checks plus a $10 trade-in for other banks' checks, attracted 4,000 new checking customers in the first six weeks, exceeding the bank's goal for all of 1991, officials said.

The Trail Blazers sponsorship is a classic use of a sports tie-in to build name awareness and create a positive image in a new territory, marketing experts say. "Bank of America has created a brand in Oregon," said a marketing specialist at a rival bank.

"This really does cement our position in this state," said Randy C. James, Bank of America Oregon's chairman. BankAmerica bought the state's largest thrift from the federal government last September and turned it into Oregon's third-largest commercial bank.

Sports promotions are not uncommon among banks entering new markets. Oregon's biggest bank, U.S. Bancorp, Portland, sponsored the Goodwill Games in Seattle last year to help build its reputation three years after entering Washington State.

Similarly, NCNB Texas National Bank has tried to make a name for itself in a new market by backing Southwest Conference college football games.

"As banks go into markets geographically distant from headquarters, one way they can demonstrate that they are not carpetbagging is to sponsor local sports teams," said Jim Andrews, editorial director of Special Events Report, a newsletter that tracks corporate sponsorships.

An All-Out Campaign

But rarely has a bank pushed the sports button as hard as Bank of America Oregon. It festooned its 65 branches in the state with giant posters of Trail Blazers flying toward the basket. Checks and checkbook covers are emblazoned with the team logo. And advertisements continue the theme.

In addition, BankAmerica's name appears on every game ticket, and the high-tech scoreboard at the Trail Blazer's arena is called BankAmeriVision.

Bank of America Oregon officials say the basketball team is especially revered because it is the state's only major-league sports team. Home games are invariably sold out.

Playoffs Added Excitement

The team's popularity reached its highest pitch when the Trail Blazers advanced to the NBA playoffs this spring. Blazermania swept through small towns hundreds of miles away from Portland. The winner of the banks' Blazer Sweepstakes came from Roseburg, a lumber town near the California border. His prize: tickets to all Trail Blazer playoff games, which ended last week with a defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"The Blazers are the hottest commodity in Portland right now," said a rival bank marketer during the playoffs. "You couldn't pick a better advertising vehicle."

PHOTO : WINNING IMAGE: Bank of America Oregon has bedecked all its branches with posters of the Trail Blazers in high gear.

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