BankPlus scores first deal with Eli

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Published: May 3,2004

BELZONI – Each year, the first overall draft pick of the National Football League can expect not only a multimillion-dollar salary but equally lucrative endorsement opportunities, as well. However, when Eli Manning, former All-America quarterback at the University of Mississippi, was made the first overall pick in the 2004 draft held the final weekend of April, many draft-day analysts believed that both Wall Street and Madison Avenue would take special interest.

First, Eli will be playing for the Giants in New York, media capital of the world where plenty of cameras, microphones and pens will be ready to record his every move. Combine that with his solid off-the-field reputation and last name – the Mannings are now arguably the “First Family of Quarterbacks” and are known for their wholesome image – and many were predicting a variable feeding frenzy by corporate America as it vies for Eli`s name, face and time.

It would seem those analysts were right as endorsements have already started. However, it may come as a surprise as to just which company not only grabbed Eli first, but landed his father, Drew native and quarterback legend Archie Manning, to boot. A giant shoe or sports drink company? An international brokerage firm? A global telecommunications firm?

No. The winner is none other than BankPlus, headquartered in quiet Belzoni in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Both Eli and Archie have signed a three-year endorsement deal that includes television, newspaper and radio advertisements as well as personal appearances. The amount of the contract was not disclosed.

“We are proud to announce that Archie and Eli Manning have joined the BankPlus team,” said Bill Ray, CEO of BankPlus. “We are excited about our alliance with Archie and Eli because they represent all that we stand for at BankPlus. Being the company Eli chose as his first endorsement is an honor and represents his commitment to the Mississippi community. The Mannings and BankPlus are a perfect fit.”

BankPlus showed that it could mix it up with bigger competition and win when it was awarded the contract from Nissan North America for its automobile manufacturing operation in Canton several years ago. But the playing field for Eli was filled with much larger competitors with very deep pockets. Just how did BankPlus, which operates offices in 28 Mississippi communities (but not Oxford) and holds total assets of more than $1 billion, pull it off? Was it local loyalty and the Mannings’ connection to the Delta that won over Eli and Archie?

Perhaps, said Gene Delcomyn, BankPlus’ president of the metro region. But he believes the key to the financial institution`s success was good timing and good fortune.

“We started talking to Eli and Archie about a month or so ago,” Delcomyn said. “It`s been a foregone conclusion for some time that Eli would be drafted in the first round. But when we started negotiating, it was not apparent that he would be the first player selected. We just got there first.”

Archie said, “We were attracted to BankPlus because of its commitment to the community and outstanding financial services it offers to its customers. Not only are Eli and I endorsers, we are also clients of BankPlus.”

The new BankPlus/Manning campaign will feature 10- and 30-second television spots that are airing in the Jackson, Meridian, Picayune, Belzoni, Yazoo City and Lexington markets. The first spot, “Press Conference,” began running April 24, the first day of the NFL draft. The spot duplicates a press conference that takes place after Eli was drafted.

Two other spots are scheduled to begin airing later this year. “Interview” replicates a television news magazine interview in a living room setting and will hit television sets after Eli signs his first NFL contract. Eli will further promote BankPlus in “Locker Room,” a third commercial that is slated to run later in the year.

The television spots will be supported by print and radio advertisements. Directed at both existing and potential customers, the advertising seeks to introduce the bank`s services and customer service. Delcomyn said the package also includes personal appearances by both Mannings.

Gary Gusick, creative director at The Ramey Agency in Jackson, developed the advertising concepts. Production was completed on all three spots at Eyevox in Ridgeland. The advertisements were shot in a single afternoon on three different sets at the Eyevox sound stage. Eyevox`s Jeff Tanner produced the spots while Mike Fornwald directed the action.

Gusick said, “The advertisements are a light-hearted study dealing with the financial implications of Eli`s new professional career. Eli was a natural and at ease in front of the cameras, much like he was on the football field.”

When asked if BankPlus was surprised at its coup, Delcomyn said, “I wouldn`t use that word. I wouldn`t say we are surprised. But we are elated.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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