Wachovia Corp. has joined the choir of cobranded credit card players with a deal that strikes a note all its own.
After staying off the charts for years as other top card companies issued one cobranded hit after another, Wachovia said Monday that it will issue a Visa card for BMG Entertainment North America.
The partners hope to be first into the growing and untapped entertainment market with a September card launching. In a deal announced early this year, First USA and Ticketmaster, had said their cobranded MasterCard would be launched this spring. But First USA now says the no-fee card that is to offer entertainment-related rewards will be available this year.
It wasn't lack of interest in cobranded programs that had kept Wachovia out of the competition, said Beverly B. Wells, president of Wachovia Bank Card Services in Atlanta. The issuer had had its hands full with consumers responding to low-rate offers.
Now that Wachovia has the capacity to add cardholders, she said, the 19th-largest bank card issuer will seek more partners. "Cobranding is a nice way for everybody to get excited about adding that new dimension," she said, "which is the new value that goes beyond the rate and fee."
While BMG and Wachovia fine-tune their Visa for its September debut, they said it would be a low-rate, no-fee card that offers music lovers rewards for spending. Cardholders will earn points that can be redeemed for concert tickets, backstage passes, award shows, compact discs, autographed memorabilia, rare music, and videos-all exclusively from BMG artists.
BMG Entertainment North America, based in New York, is the seventh- largest media company in the world. Its artists, ranging from the Dave Matthews Band to George Winston, record on the Arista, RCA, Private Music, and Windham Hill Group labels, said Kevin Conroy, senior vice president of marketing.
"When you have exclusivity-the backstage passes, something you can't go out and buy-that attracts people," said Anne Morgan Moore, president of Synergistics Research Corp., Atlanta.
The music fans the card attracts will be young, have discretionary income to spend, and will likely revolve balances, Ms. Moore said.
Ms. Wells of Wachovia agreed that some BMG cardholders would revolve and that many are likely to spend more to reap the rewards.
While there is potential for the BMG card, said Michael Auriemma, president of Auriemma Consulting, "communicating the rewards will be a challenge."
BMG will tap into its data base of 10 million consumers to solicit card accounts by direct mail, said Scott Richman, its director of marketing. It will also advertise the card on-line, on campuses, and in the general press.
The company said it began looking for a credit card issuer about eight months ago, selecting Wachovia from a field of 12. Wachovia, which has a corporate relationship with a unit of BMG, said it was attracted to the entertainment company's rich customer list.
Mr. Conroy of BMG said the card would be a vehicle "to create a relationship with music consumers that doesn't exist today.
"We view this as an interesting way to reach out to consumers in a nontraditional manner and expose them to artists that they otherwise might not come into contact with. By doing that we hope to both reinforce the fan base we have as well as create new fans."