Wisconsin community bankers are teaming with the state's most cherished institution to help polish their image.

A group of 71 banks has forked over $35,500 to buy air time on the Green Bay Packers Radio Network. Its 30-second spots, which began airing during the Packers' season opener Sept. 6, are the first effort at a statewide image campaign.

Charles L. Saeman, president of Community Bankers of Wisconsin - the group behind the ads - said bankers think the campaign is needed to highlight differences between small and large banks.

"We need to tell people that we're not First Chicago," said Mr. Saeman, who is executive vice president of State Bank of Cross Plains in Wisconsin. He said all banks suffered when First Chicago announced three years ago that it would charge customers $3 for teller transactions, a policy that was later modified.

The ads say a community banker is "as much a part of this area as you are" because he or she "lends money to the new hardware store, contributes to your kid's soccer program, and flips burgers at the Fourth of July picnic."

The campaign comes as bankers nationwide are trying to improve their image. The Wisconsin ads feature the slogan "On Your Corner and in Your Corner," which was coined for community banks by the Independent Bankers Association of America. And the American Bankers Association has developed a national image-polishing effort and is calling on individual banks to fund air time for it.

The $35,000 raised by the Wisconsin bankers is enough to buy one spot during each of the first eight games this year. The group is urging more banks to send their $500 checks so it can buy additional spots.

Daryll Lund, executive vice president of the trade group, said advertising on the Packers network was the best way to reach the widest audience.

"The Packers up here - that's all anyone talks about," he said.

Kevin Tynan, who heads Tynan Marketing in Chicago, said it makes sense to link community banks with the football team, which plays in the National Football League's smallest home city and is owned by its fans. The Packers "are a very community-oriented football club," Mr. Tynan said. "They represent the average Joe."

Not that big banks are ignoring Packer fans. Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp, a $10.6 billion-asset thrift holding company, runs numerous radio ads during each game boasting of its official relationship with the team. Associated's "Packer checking account" comes with a newsletter chronicling team events and checks bearing the Packer logo.

Mr. Lund said the community bankers' ads are not designed to go head-to- head with the Associated campaign.

"We're just trying to identify ourselves to the public," he said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.