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Our two cents: How Atlantic Credit Unions are bringing sponsorship marketing to a new level

Two pennies
Written by
Mel Hennigar

Mel Hennigar

Sponsorship marketing. When you read these words what comes to mind? A logo on the boards at a sporting event? A single option for beer at a concert (and more branded swag for said beer than you could shake a stick at)? An endless (and boring) “brought to you by…” announcement followed by logo soup on a screen at a professional event?

Whatever you conjure, chances are you’re not envisioning anything terribly compelling or dare we even suggest it—entertaining.

But Credit Unions of Atlantic Canada (a client of NATIONAL) are setting out to change that sponsorship marketing myth by embarking on a partnership with one of Canada’s most beloved television personalities.

It all started with a tweet from Jonathan Torrens, former co-host of the popular CBC show Street Cents, that sparked a seemingly far-fetched idea: “What if we created a new show inspired by Street Cents, but we got Credit Unions of Atlantic Canada involved?”

Many emails, multiple phone calls, a presentation or two later, Your Two Cents—a web series aimed at educating a youth audience how to be more financially savvy consumers—was born, and launched on May 24, 2019.

Beyond the fact this partnership represents an exciting new opportunity for credit unions, it breaks the mold of what we may traditionally think of as sponsorship marketing.

In 2019, pushing the limits of the expected is what makes a sponsorship opportunity successful. Here’s how the folks at NATIONAL Halifax applied the concept:

Know your audience

The cardinal rule for any marketing or communications mandate is knowing your audience. What do they want to know? How do they want to receive that information? Who will they listen to when it’s being delivered?

Like most brands, credit unions in Atlantic Canada know that the key to the future success and growth of their business lies with the youth (16-24) market. This is an audience who lives online, wants to be entertained, and wants to be recognized as the savvy consumers they are, so creating content that touches each of these areas is paramount. Which is why Your Two Cents is such an elegant solution—short, digestible, and most importantly, entertaining segments focused on financial advice and how to be a savvier consumer, all delivered online using humour (and a few celebrity cameos) to engage and inform.

Lean into a little star power

Sure, credit unions could have created their own branded content aimed at a younger audience. But why not create a strategic partnership that just so happens to include Jonathan Torrens, a familiar face from Street Cents—a popular Canadian TV series that focused on similar subject matter? Torrens has a huge network on his own, but he also has a lot of friends—like The Arkells, and Annie Murphy, to name a few—in the Canadian entertainment industry who were willing to lend their time and faces to the episodes. By leveraging some familiar faces, it increases the reach of each episode segment to go beyond just those who are interested in financial advice and gets the credit union message in front of a larger and broader audience.

Live local, think (inter)national

On first glance, it might seem odd that an Atlantic Canadian financial institution has partnered on a web series with a national reach. Credit unions are part of their communities—a type of hometown pride that other financial institutions simply can’t claim. But aligning with a larger national brand raises awareness at home in Atlantic Canada while signifying to the rest of the country (and the world) that credit unions are major players in the financial industry.

Be creative

The financial industry is highly competitive. And the Big Five Canadian banks have far-reaching influence when it comes to marketing initiatives. Rather than compete head-to-head on marketing spending level, credit unions in Atlantic Canada have always had to be a little more creative—which isn’t a bad thing. This has come to light through award-winning initiatives like Lost Wallets, living the values of being “always on”, and creating interesting and engaging content designed to offer financial advice. Simply put, for credit unions of Atlantic Canada, partnering on something like Your Two Cents wasn’t really a leap—it was a logical next progression for their brand and business.

Find the right fit

Sponsorship marketing has long been tied to the entertainment industry (hello soap operas!). But just because there’s a legacy, doesn’t mean sponsorship marketing needs to be done in a dated or heavy-handed way. Your Two Cents has a goal to educate Canadians to be more financially savvy consumers, which is in direct alignment with credit unions’ values of honesty, trust, and fairness. So, as a partnership, both parties were aligned. The result? Content that feels natural, not forced even though it carries a brand message. It’s not about “selling” credit unions, it’s more about providing folks with the information they need to make educated decisions—whether it’s which phone to buy or where to do their banking.

——— Mel Hennigar is a former Senior Creative Strategist at NATIONAL Public Relations