Campaigns: Going for gold with McQueen - Sponsorship

Recent research suggests that the credit card market is entering a golden age. According to the Independent (23 September 1997) there are 24 issuers of gold credit cards and the market is growing at an average rate of 45 per cent per year.

Recent research suggests that the credit card market is entering a

golden

age. According to the Independent (23 September 1997) there are 24 issuers

of gold credit cards and the market is growing at an average rate of 45

per cent per year.



In August American Express became the latest company to go for gold.



Despite confidence in its product and in the strength of the brand, the

company required a strong, innovative approach to ensure its credit card -

as opposed to its charge card - stood out from the crowd.



Objectives



To reinforce American Express’ presence in the credit card market. To

position the product to a younger audience as aspirational yet

accessible.



Tactics



In order to target both business and consumer audiences, the team

developed a two-tier campaign. Tier one launched the gold credit card to

personal finance journalists and tier two promoted it to the consumer and

lifestyle press.



The consumer campaign focused on identifying a sponsorship opportunity

which would support the card in an eye-catching way while being relevant

to a younger audience. It was also important to complement the company’s

brand values - American Express favours involvement with people and events

which are innovative and leaders in their field.



As one of the youngest ever winners of Designer of the Year, fashion

designer Alexander McQueen was an ideal brand fit.



American Express agreed to sponsor McQueen’s catwalk show at London

Fashion Week (26 September - 1 October). The company also commissioned

McQueen to design a gold trouser suit to be revealed at the show. Ten days

before, Hill and Knowlton announced the sponsorship deal and invited seven

lifestyle and personal finance journalists to attend. The agency also

placed a competition in the Guardian offering three pairs of tickets.



The show took place on 28 September. To fuel media excitement, the

location, a bus depot in Victoria, was not revealed until the last minute.

At the finale, McQueen took his bow accompanied by supermodel Shirley

Malman who wore the American Express gold trouser suit.



Results



To date the American Express sponsorship of McQueen’s show has achieved

mentions in 20 national press cuttings. The Guardian competition generated

1,000 entries. The launch campaign as a whole has so far generated 82

articles.



Verdict



According to American Express, the response rate for the gold credit card

has exceeded aggressive targets two-and-a-half times over. While this

success is partly attributable to a highly effective direct marketing

campaign, Douglas Smith, director of public affairs consumer services

group, says the PR campaign helped to build credibility and awareness.



Express deputy money editor Simon Hinde, who attended McQueen’s show,

describes the decision to sponsor the designer as bold and unexpected.



In terms of positioning, however, he thinks it will take more than the

McQueen sponsorship for the company to change its image from a big brand

name to something more trendy and cutting edge.





CLIENT: American Express

PR TEAM: Hill and Knowlton/In-house

CAMPAIGN: Launch of American Express Gold Credit Card

TIMESCALE: Tier one: June - August 1997. Tier two: September - December

1997

COST: pounds 30,000 (excluding sponsorship)



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