Athens may have hosted the 2004 Olympics but it also played host to an elite award ceremony for financial athletes in the field of co-branding, when MasterCard unveiled its 'Co-Brand Partner of the Year' awards, with top honours going to Bank of Ireland, SEB Kort, and Garanti Bank.
Three co-branding award winners were selected from over 2,500 MasterCard co-branded programmes in Europe, and were independently judged and selected by Bob Hand (managing director for Affinity Solutions Ltd), Alan Leach (director and co-founder of Finaccord), and Peter Trembling (managing director for The Affinity Company).
Best Launch in 2003/4
For Best Launch in 2003/4, the winner was the Special Olympics Advantage Credit Card from the Bank of Ireland. The catch line behind this co-branded credit card was: "To deliver a concept is difficult; to deliver a dream is enriching for all participants". Last year's Special Olympics World Summer Games was a hugely successful event thanks to the thousands of people who shared the feeling. This card programme raised more than Euro 1 million for the games across the many programme initiatives that were implemented, resulting in one of the fastest growing co-brand programmes launched in Ireland.
According to the judges, this was a very impressive nomination: "In many ways it's not a classic co-brand but more an affinity card that draws upon the best traits of a co-brand programme. It captures the moment perfectly, the first ever Special Olympics outside of the USA and this card really embodies the theme of the Special Olympics and its ethos in drawing upon the hearts and minds of the Irish people." But at the same time, through a concerted marketing campaign and compelling product proposition, the card also managed to strike a good balance between altruism and profitability.
The loyalty initiative with Swiftpoints' combined the value-add consumer benefit with the altruistic slant in that it allowed customers to donate unredeemed points to the Special Olympics cause. The programme also had an innovative marketing approach, in light of the fact that the standard co-brand route to market (a sizeable partner database) was not applicable. The judges liked the high profile launch, the television advertising campaign, the celebrity endorsement and the use of in-house existing channels. The true testament to the success of this approach was in the results it delivered.
Best usage/expansion programme in 2003
For Best Usage/Expansion Programme in 2003, the winner was the Statoil fuel MasterCard card from Swedish bank SEB Kort. Launched in 1997, this fuel card became a solid co-branded card programme in Sweden. A key part of its success was its loyalty element, which is based on petrol discounts in return for spending. In 2003 Statoil, in partnership with SEB Kort Sweden, relaunched the programme: with strong acquisition tactics, such as meticulous research and the use of dedicated professional sales teams, significant gains were made in terms of card base and programme performance.
The judges commented: "This is a perfect example of how to develop and expand a co-brand card programme that is already working very well. Even though SEB Kort and Statoil had a successful programme here they have not been complacent but, conversely, have implemented a hugely ambitious strategy to significantly increase the number of cards over a four-year period. What is so impressive is the manner in which SEB Kort and Statoil have gone about this expansion objective. They reviewed their existing product, they spoke to their customer base, and then delivered a card programme that embodied the key elements within the current programme but focused upon those issues and initiatives that would drive customer acquisition."
Long Term Achievement Award
The winner of the Long Term Achievement Award was the Bonus Card from Garanti Bank, Turkey. Bonus Card, introduced in 2000, was the first multi-branded chip-based credit and loyalty card programme in Turkey. Built around a single cash-back reward pool, the card programme now also provides instalment purchase facilities at partner merchants. This offering has helped to revolutionise the credit card market in Turkey, helping Bonus become Turkey's fastest growing card with some three million cardholders, 1,000 partner merchants and a total of 52,000 points of sale. The programme is also currently the largest multi-branded card programme in Europe, according to MasterCard. The bank also offers consultancy on multi-branding loyalty applications.
The Judges said that, in many ways, the Garanti Bank Bonus Card could be highlighted as the perfect example for years to come for how to deliver a successful co-branded credit card proposition with a win-win situation for all concerned: "The fact that it has revolutionised the Turkish credit card market is indicative of its success and its remarkable growth over a relatively short period of time - only four years." Like any co-branded card it benefits everybody: the consumer is induced to use the card through strong partnership propositions, reward schemes and cash-back, and the partners are encouraged to sign up because of the increased consumer spend and loyalty.
In an interview with The Wise Marketer Garanti Payment Systems' general manager, Mehmet Sezgin, explained that the bank is planning to expand the bonus marketing concept globally, and is already negotiating and consulting with as-yet unnamed banks and card issuers in Asia Pacific and Europe to help them establish similar card programmes. According to Sezgin, the bank now receives up to 6,000 card applications daily. One of the secrets of the Bonus Card programme's success is the unique way in which the bank targets merchant partners: instead of targeting just the financial department within each merchant company, Garanti seeks out key players in the marketing department first. "This is a marketing decision, not just a financial one," explained Sezgin.
This was the first time MasterCard has presented the Co-Brand Partners of the Year Awards in Europe. "It's clear that the three winning partners and their fellow 14 nominees have set the stage for excellence and innovation in co-branding in the years to come," said Andrew Slattery, head of co-branding programmes for MasterCard Europe.