Bank of America Revs Up NASCAR Involvement

From the portfolios of the wealthiest Americans to the wallets of race fans, Bank of America is building exposure for its range of financial offerings to consumers from all walks of life.

On the heels of last week's announcement that it would pay $3.3 billion in cash to buy U.S. Trust from Charles Schwab & Co., the Charlotte, N.C. banking giant yesterday said it had signed a five-year deal to become the official and exclusive bank of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Although Bank of America didn't disclose terms, the deal was reportedly valued at between $15 million and $20 million.

Among major professional sports, NASCAR says it ranks number one in corporate involvement and per-event attendance, and number two in television viewership. In recent seasons, however, the sport seems to have stalled--with TV viewership and attendance both dipping. Almost half its 36 races showed ratings dips of more than 10 percent when compared with 2005 numbers and fewer than half its events sold out.



Even so, Bank of America CMO Anne Finucane noted that "NASCAR's popularity and loyal following gives us an opportunity to promote a broad array of financial solutions not only to its 75 million fans, but also to NASCAR's powerful community of teams, sponsors and businesses that support the operations and growth of the sport."

Bank of America's ties to NASCAR originated in the 1980s, when legacy banks in Virginia and North Carolina sponsored races and provided financing for speedways. Its NASCAR ties deepened earlier this year after its merger with MBNA, which was the official credit card issuer of NASCAR. That sponsorship, dating to 1993, gives NASCAR exclusive rights to issue Visa-branded products.

Now, in addition to NASCAR, Bank of America is the official bank sponsor of Major League Baseball, the 2006-2008 U.S. Olympic Teams and the NFL's Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.

NASCAR said it will continue partnerships in the areas of payment services, insurance and related services, tax preparation and gift cards.

"With its trusted reputation and national reach, Bank of America is an ideal partner for NASCAR," said NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps in a statement.

"We're thrilled Bank of America will play such a visible role in the sport, and look forward to the value the company will bring to NASCAR fans, drivers, teams, tracks, sponsors and media partners. We consider this agreement, which comes at the end of a very successful season for NASCAR, a significant step for the future growth of our sport."

For its money, Bank of America said it plans racing-themed mass-market promotions, at-track branding and hospitality, rewards programs for both customers and employees, and business-to-business and cross-promotional opportunities with NASCAR's various sponsor partners and during special NASCAR events, such as the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, Championship Event and Champions Week.

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