CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - First came the Olympics. Next it was baseball, then NASCAR. Now, with hopes of tackling more than 120 million football fans, Bank of America Corp. has signed on to become the ``official'' bank of the National Football League.
The three-year deal further expands the burgeoning sports marketing portfolio at the nation's second largest bank, which is also expanding its line of affinity products - such as debit cards featuring a team logo - to include the NFL.
``In the financial services category, there is so much competition,'' said Rob Vogel, president and chief operating officer at The Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports marketing firm. ``The NFL is the No. 1 sport in the U.S. With it you have a tremendous platform to establish yourself against your competitors.''
The deal makes Charlotte-based Bank of America the NFL's exclusive sponsor for banking and related financial services, including checking and savings accounts, credit, debit and ATM cards, and wire and currency transfer and exchange services. The company gets the right to use the NFL shield logo and other NFL-licensed trademarks, such as the Super Bowl, in marketing and advertising promotions.
The bank will also have the rights to advertise during NFL games and on NFL-controlled media assets, such as NFL Network and NFL.com. Some financial services are excluded from the new deal, though the NFL said it will continue its existing relationship with State Farm in the area of insurance.
A person familiar with the agreement, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly released financial terms of the three-year deal, said it was worth from $9 million to $10 million.
Bank of America's sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Committee dates to the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. It signed on as the ``official bank of baseball'' in 2004, signing a five-year deal with Major League Baseball and inking sponsorships that extend down to the Little League level. In November, it ``officially'' added NASCAR, a sport widely viewed as the nation's fastest-growing.
``With its trusted reputation and national reach, Bank of America is an ideal partner for the NFL,'' said Lisa Baird, the NFL's senior vice president of marketing and consumer products. ``We're pleased Bank of America will play such a visible role in our sport.''
To kick off its sponsorship, Bank of America on Thursday will unveil NFL checking, a slice of the bank's affinity banking products that will include logos on checks and check cards, and even special interest rates on CDs and other investment accounts.
Currently, customers can get team-specific check cards and checks for the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins. In November, products with the NFL logo will become available.
The bank wouldn't say if it planned to offer additional team-specific checking products. But the company has a presence in most cities with NFL teams and is ``always looking for ways to expand our business,'' said Susan Faulkner, a deposits and debit executive at Bank of America.
In addition to NFL checking, Faulkner said the bank is also adding 20 more professional groups, as well as university alumni associations, nonprofit groups and sports teams, including the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, to its affinity banking offerings.
Bank of America began work on expanding its existing affinity banking program last year after buying MBNA Corp., the credit card giant that pioneered the idea. In 1995, MBNA became the official credit card of the NFL, and the bank already offers credit cards featuring the logos of all 32 NFL teams.
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On the Net:
Bank of America Corp.: http://www.bankofamerica.com
National Football League: http://www.nfl.com

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