When it comes to marketing, Boatmen's Bancshares is betting balloons contain more than hot air.

The St. Louis-based banking company plans on entering a 60-foot-tall balloon in a number of races this fall. At the helm will be Bob Polkinghorn, a Boatmen's data processing employee and veteran balloon pilot.

What's lifting the balloon? Competition.

Boatmen's recently purchased Sunwest Financial Corp., a New Mexico company that goes head to head and cloud to cloud with Albuquerque-based United New Mexico Financial Corp. United New Mexico, the progenitor of balloon marketing, operates a fleet of four hot-air giants and advertises itself as "the bank with the balloons."

Boatmen's balloon is now emblazoned with a new red-and-white bank logo. But in a show of marketing mileage, the "envelope," or inflated portion, will be changed to carry the Sunwest logo at Albuquerque's international balloon fiesta later this month.

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