Banking

Truist’s marketing pact with NFL has social justice hook

Landing an NFL sponsorship would be a big deal for any bank even in relatively normal times. For Truist Financial in Charlotte, N.C., it also represents an opportunity to hitch its new brand to a broad social cause.

The $499 billion-asset Truist announced recently that it had signed a multiyear deal to be an official retail bank of the National Football League. The partnership, which will span several seasons, allows Truist to offer co-branded products plus showcase its brand alongside the league’s.

Truist will also support the NFL’s social justice campaign, Inspire Change, and intends to announce new initiatives connected to that in the months ahead. The company debuted its new partnership with a video ad spot centered on the idea of “unlocking potential.”

“We see a shared commitment of building better lives and communities with the NFL through eco nomic empowerment and financial education,” said Joe Smith, Truist’s head of sponsorships and regional marketing.

Joe Smith, Truist’s head of sponsorships and regional marketing, says the company will announce new efforts related to “economic empowerment and financial education” in the months ahead.

Companies, especially banks, have been trying to establish connections with big causes or movements since the coronavirus pandemic struck and the death of George Floyd sparked protests against racial injustices, branding and marketing experts said. Consumers were already gravitating towards banks they viewed as trusted allies, but that trend has gained momentum this year, said Gina Bleedorn, chief experience officer at the branding agency Adrenaline.

“What we have all observed post-COVID is this hyperacceleration of consumers trending hard to purpose-driven brands and even demanding purpose if brands don’t have them,” she said. “In a way, this is making a statement about what their brand stands for. They haven’t done that in a big way. This is that way. It’s big, but I think it’s smart.”

“Consumers have a renewed interest in working with brands they feel are beneficial to their civic views and to their communities,” said Steven Reider, president of the consulting firm Bancography.

The NFL launched its Inspire Change campaign early in 2019 as a way to showcase the various efforts that players, team owners and the league were making toward social justice in local communities. That campaign is focused around three core priorities: education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform.

Past examples of those efforts have included grants to organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, as well as a partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition to provide jobs to ex-inmates.

Smith did not say what kinds of projects Truist might support as a result of the partnership, other than to say that the company would focus on economic empowerment and financial literacy.

For Truist, which was created through the 2019 merger of SunTrust Banks and BB&T, the deal is also a chance to finally make a big splash with its new brand. The company received mixed reactions when it unveiled its new name in mid-2019, and it had scarcely closed its merger when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“In a lot of ways, COVID probably deprived them of the type of brand launch they might have done otherwise,” Reider said.

Truist would not say how many years or seasons the partnership would cover, nor did it provide financial details of the deal. Smith said the sponsorship builds on the predecessor banks’ existing relationships with the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins, although he said that Truist isn’t currently pursuing new sponsorships of other local teams.

He said, “we see sports teams as part of the lifeblood of a community and partnering with the right organization allows us to expand that reach locally and engage with fans in a more relevant way.”



 

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