Credit unions have to spend money to make money, but determining where and how much to spend for extra marketing initiatives like public events is complicated.
Industry spending on marketing and educational purposes reached its highest quarterly annualized level for the past decade in 4Q 11, according Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer Software. While the figures dropped slightly in 1Q 12, from nearly $145,000 to $141,000, average spending was up nearly $16,000 year-over-year.
The industry is spending more on marketing, but credit unions – especially small credit unions – must continue to balance efficiency alongside event outreach goals. In particular, credit unions with less than $50 million in assets have yet to see spending in this category recover to prerecession levels.
Whether you’re a larger credit union trying to draw a statewide crowd, or a smaller credit union with a more conservative outreach, consider these five types of public events to fit your budget.
Concerts, Shows, And Festivals
Small communities present many opportunities for localized events like open mic nights, farmers markets, car washes, and small businesses openings, but credit unions with the resources can think bigger.
Bethpage Federal Credit Union ($4.7B, Bethpage, NY) has been able to sponsor a Long Island air show ─ which also bears its name ─ for nearly a decade, drawing crowds of more than 400,000 in its best years. The name and event logo keep the credit union before the public, and contests leading up to the event give members the chance to connect with pilots and other performers.
For smaller credit unions, especially those without the resources to do additional promotions or contests to support their investment, sponsoring a large event might not be cost effective. Yet any credit union could arrange for a booth presence at these types of events, driving exposure without the costs, preparations, and perhaps legal obligations that come from sponsorship.
Opportunities to shine during sports event go beyond just running ads on the JumboTron. Consider a staff presence or kiosks that let potential members take actionable steps immediately. If sponsoring professional and collegiate teams is outside the budget, consider minor or amateur leagues, middle and high school teams, non-traditional sports like a Parkour team to attract Gen Y, or solo athletes like triathlon competitors.
121 Financial Credit Union ($435M, Jacksonville, FL) currently sponsors the Jacksonville Sharks, the area’s Arena Football League team. 121 Financial embraces the games as a chance to sign fans up for membership, according to a release. They also give out free team T-shirts to those who also apply for their branded Sharks Visa card.
Particpating in parades with a floats is another option, but then credit union staff will be separated from the public and will only have a few seconds as they roll past to make an impact. Pen Air Federal Credit Union ($1.2B, Pensacola, FL) makes the most of these events by having paid actors ─ in costume as the credit union’s Pen Air Patrol superhero team ─ out interacting with the crowd. The actors also make appearances at the Pensacola Ice Flyers games and credit union in-branch activities.
Financial products like CDs and investments are important, but they’re hardly something people would drive across town and pay an entrance fee to see. Events with very targeted demographics (like senior wellness or college preparation conventions) are a rare exception where people will show up to hear about financial products and services themselves.
An alternate tactic may be to focus on consumer goods conferences that provide physical reminders of what credit union products and services can help members achieve. Great options include home, leisure vehicle, antique, art shows, and other consumer events that draw heavy foot traffic and trigger natural sales conversations.
Parking Lot Gatherings And In-Branch Activities
Making the most of the space you own is a great way to save. Consider putting the blacktop to good use with an on-site car show. Local car clubs and historic societies are often willing to help out for a good cause. Lots also make the perfect place for shred days, sports demos, or seasonal events like BBQ socials.
For six years, America’s Christian Credit Union ($252M, Glendora, CA) has teamed up with Radio Disney to truck in snow to sunny California each December. Complete with a North Pole, local fire trucks on display, and food from In-N-Out Burger, this on-site snow day event drew a whopping 8,000 attendees in 2011.
NMTW Community Credit Union ($537M, Lowell, MA) brought the convention feel to its branches to create their own home buyer’s expos. Attendees had access to real estate, insurance, home inspection, financial, and legal expertise and each received a $500 coupon off their mortgage closing costs with the credit union should they receive a mortgage from. Evolve Federal Credit Union ($320M, El Paso, TX) also decided to make use of its branch facilities, opting to screen films by local filmmakers as part of a rebranding campaign earlier this year.