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NFL Kicks Off Season With New Affinity Card

The National Football League will expand its affinity credit card program by introducing an NFL Quarterback Club Visa card to coincide with the start of the regular season next month.

After attracting more than 1.2 million fans to carry an NFL Visa card with the logo of their favorite team, the league is shifting its focus to individual players. The new cards will feature four prominent members of the Quarterback Club: John Elway of the Denver Broncos, Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers and Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions.

The Quarterback Club was formed in 1991 by 11 of the top quarterbacks in the NFL as a way to improve their marketability by pooling their marketing rights. Today, the club includes other players in addition to quarterbacks. According to Gary Gertzog, senior vice president of NFL Properties, the club has achieved rapid growth through licensing and sponsorship. The affinity Visa card is another vehicle to extend their brand.

MBNA America Bank, Wilmington, DE, issued the original NFL Card and will handle marketing for the new card. The national campaign, which starts Sept. 6, will include direct mail and telemarketing solicitations to existing NFL cardholders and prospects gleaned from various league-related databases. Information about the club is available online at www.nfl.com.

“Typically, you see organization names. There are few instances where celebrities are featured on cards,” Gertzog said. “This is a pretty important step for MBNA to take. We have been in discussions for a couple of years with them about taking this next step with us.”

Although MBNA would not reveal specifics about the campaign, Gertzog said the credit card issuer has a significant database of buyers of licensed NFL products and respondents to sponsorship offers as well as a variety of lists to tap into from other sports. MBNA has endorsement deals with more than 600 sports organizations, including Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

Quarterback Club cardholders can win a trip to the annual Quarterback Challenge and will receive free admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, merchandise discounts and low rates on subscriptions to Sports Illustrated.

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