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Capital One to offer awards to top college sports programs

September 1, 2010

capone1Capital One Financial Corp will recognize the top U.S. men’s and women’s college athletics programsĀ in a move to generate fan interest and draw attention to the credit card issuer and bank.

The company, which became a top-tier NCAA athletics sponsor in March, announced the launch of the Capital One Cup, a new program rewarding NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative performance across multiple men’s and women’s sports.

Starting with the 2010-2011 academic year, Capital One, the third-largest U.S. issuer of Visa-branded credit cards and the fifth-largest issuer of MasterCard-branded credit cards, will recognize the top men’s and women’s athletics programs at the largest colleges with $200,000 each to fund graduate-level scholarships for student-athletes.

“We looked at this and felt that the overall best athletic program in the country was actually written about in magazines, but there really wasn’t a great, celebrated, heavily marketed award,” Capital One Chief Marketing Officer Bill McDonald told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“We felt there was a bit of a gap and we’re stepping in and filling that.”

McDonald said the new program allows Capital One, which also sponsors a college football bowl game, as well as programs around the college football bowl season and the top college mascots, a chance to stand out in a memorable way.

“The trick to when you do sponsorship is not just to take what’s off the shelf, but to go create something fresh and new,” he said.

Under the new program, schools will earn points based on their teams’ top 10 finishes in Division I championships and in final coaches’ polls in 13 men’s and 13 women’s sports, the company said. In July, the two programs with the highest point totals will be recognized as the winners at ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards show.

Sports will be divided into tiers, with men’s programs earning the most points for football, basketball and baseball. Those sports will offer a points multiplier of three versus a multiplier of two for such sports as soccer and lacrosse and a multiplier of one for such sports as ice hockey, golf and tennis.

The women’s tier 1 sports are volleyball, basketball and softball. Fans can follow the standings at www.capitalonecup.com through the year.

Capital One signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with CBS Sports in March to become a top-tier NCAA sponsor that provided the company with exclusive credit card and retail banking marketing and promotional rights around the NCAA’s 88 Division I, II and III men’s and women’s championship events.

In case anyone was wondering, last year’s winners would have been Duke on the men’s side and Stanford on the women’s.

(Reuters photo)

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