Discover Financial Services is taking competition to heart with two major sports-sponsorship deals, signaling a major change in its allocation of marketing dollars. The deals involve the National Hockey League and college football’s Orange Bowl.

The Riverwoods, Ill.-based card issuer and network previously was involved smaller sports sponsorships, such as the Illinois High School Swimming Association, the WNBA and Arena Football. 

But despite the apparent change of strategy, Discover contends it is just pursuing deals that reflect cardmember interests, Jennifer Murillo, Discover director of advertising, tells PaymentsSource. Through its extensive consumer research, Discover determined that its cardmember base was very passionate about college football and hockey, she says.

“These opportunities came to us at the right time,” Murillo noted an e-mail statement. “We were looking for ways to connect with our cardmembers around their core passions. We saw college football and hockey as a great way to do that and to get out the message about all the great ways it pays to Discover.”

Discover announced the Orange Bowl sponsorship in August (see story). As part of that arrangement, Discover has launched a series of TV commercials featuring well-known coaches. Holders of Discover cards also may use cashback-bonus rewards to purchase tickets online to the 2011 game starting Dec. 1.

Discover this month also launched TV ads related to the Orange Bowl called “Peggy.” The ads feature former college coaches Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden experiencing the frustration of dealing with poor customer service from a fictitious credit company. Discover launched the ads’ theme in August (see story). 

For the football game, the annual event will be called Discover Orange Bowl. In 2013, when the event hosts the Bowl Championship Series’ final matchup, it will be called the Discover BCS National Championship Game. Discover succeeds FedEx Corp. as the event’s sponsor.

In its U.S. sponsorship deal with the National Hockey League, Discover will be the official partner card of the NHL, NHL All-Star Weekend, NHL Winter Classic, NHL Awards and the NHL Entry Draft. The card brand also will be the presenting sponsor of the NHL All-Star Game.

 One Discover cardmember will have the opportunity to spend a personal day with the Stanley Cup. Details for that event are still being worked out, according to a Discover spokesperson.

In addition, Discover will give cardmembers the chance to redeem their cashback-bonus rewards for discounts when shopping at and the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York and when buying GameCenter Live subscriptions and autographed NHL merchandise.

Discover would not disclose the cost of either deal.

Delving into larger, more-national sports sponsorships is a big move for Discover, one analyst says.

“Discover’s entry in this is not shocking based on the fact that the competition already is doing sports sponsorships,” says Megan Bramlette, managing director of New York-based Auriemma Consulting Group. “What is interesting is that they have very consciously picked a couple of mass-market events.”

Discover traditionally focuses on everyday spend instead of the affluent market some card issuers have been trying to target, Bramlette notes. “Offering value is a big thing for Discover, and I expect any message incorporated into those sponsorships to resonate with that,” she says.

What do you think about this? Send us your feedback. Click Here.



Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the payments industry

14-Day Free Trial

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the industry