In a move intended to cement its connection to its home state, Wells Fargo & Co. has committed $1 million to help sponsor California's celebration of 150 years of statehood.
The state's commemoration, called a sesquicentennial, is being organized by the California Trade and Commerce Agency to promote tourism and economic development.
Wells, which has $94.8 billion of assets, is the event's title sponsor. Other major sponsors include American Express, Disneyland Resorts, and the Southern California Edison utility.
Consultants said this type of promotion of the Wells brand is particularly important now that BankAmerica Corp. has agreed to merge with NationsBank Corp. to form a $570 billion-asset company based in Charlotte, N.C.
"Not every company is able to look at their history and bring it into their present marketing strategy," said Nancy Rehkopf, Wells Fargo's manager of corporate sponsorships. "We hope this sponsorship sends a strong message about our commitment to California."
Wells will sponsor an Imax-format movie about California that will begin touring 13 of the state's cities and 82 other locations next spring.
At each stop, Wells will also sponsor a festival showcasing California's wine and cuisine. Additionally, the bank will help fund a traveling multimedia museum that will tour the state beginning in 2000.
The sponsorship will help differentiate Wells from BankAmerica, its main Golden State competitor, said Lesa Ukman, president of IEG Inc., a Chicago firm that tracks and analyzes sponsorships.
Wells Fargo "wants to show they were there first, that they are an integral part of the California community, and that they are staying," Ms. Ukman said.
With a 1997 promotional budget that Ms. Ukman estimated at about $5 million, Wells Fargo has sponsored museums, theme parks, ballet companies, and symphonies in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Wells has long capitalized on its early California origins by using a stagecoach as its logo.
Mexico ceded California to the United States in 1848, the same year that gold was discovered. The event triggered the Gold Rush of 1849, when Wells Fargo and its stagecoaches established lines of communication, delivered goods, minted gold into coins, and supplied checks and bank drafts.
"Wells Fargo is one of the founding corporate citizens in California," said Michael J. Marando, a spokesman for the trade and commerce agency. It is "synonymous not only with banking but with how California got started. We're thrilled they are our title sponsor."
The Wells Fargo brand could get wide exposure from the deal. Mr. Marando said he expects more than two million people to see the Imax film in California.