Affectionately known by locals as “The Cage,” TDECU Stadium is the 40,000-seat home of the University of Houston’s Cougar football team.
But even before the stadium opened its doors for its inaugural game on August, 29, 2014, Lucilla Henderson, vice president of community relations and business development at TDECU saw a new way to build brand awareness and underscore the credit union’s community commitment.
“Getting naming rights to the stadium was an incredible way to engage with this university we knew was growing and become more impactful in the higher education community,” Henderson says.
CU QUICK FACTS
texas dow employees credit union
data as of 03.31.15
HQ: Lake Jackson, TX
MEMBERS: 210, 450
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.19%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 15.82%
In the past five years, TDECU has increased its branch presence in the Houston area from two to 19, and the credit union now ranks at No. 30 in deposit market share in Harris County, TX, home to Houston.
But a physical footprint in the nation’s fifth-largest metropolitan area — where there’s “a bank on every corner,” according to Henderson — isn’t enough to build brand. So in 2013, TDECU created a formal department headed by Henderson to improve its community outreach.
In early 2014, TDECU met with the university’s athletic department to explore the credit union’s interest in securing naming rights as a means to elevate its brand and serve its members in the community. With board and management approval, the Henderson created a formal offer for the stadium and put it through a legal review in late spring. At a press conference on July 8, 2014, the credit union and university announced the 10-year, $15 million agreement.
In the 70 days after that press conference, the credit union received what it calculates to be $22 million in earned media — publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising — that it likely wouldn’t have otherwise received. Better still, that figure doesn’t take into account mentions during televised or broadcast football games.
In 2011, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named University of Houston a Tier One university. This classification coupled with a $400 million campus construction program and the launch of a 75-acre mixed-use office-industrial park characterize a university on the rise.
More importantly, the credit union thought the university would make an excellent partner institution. Today, TDECU runs an internship program with the university and one of the credit union’s highest performing branches is in the student center.
I don't think a day goes by where we are not on campus doing something.
Additionally, the credit union provides financial literacy classes and training to the university’s Athletic Leadership Academy. It also sponsors financial literacy for the Urban Experience Program, which works to prevent setbacks to degree achievement.
On campus, TDECU now sponsors and markets during new student orientation, its CEO Stephanie Sherrodd has given speeches to various colleges within the university, and the credit union’s talent service department offers job training at the Bauer College of Business. It even sponsors a group that recruits and interviews on campus.
“I don’t think a day goes by where we’re not on campus doing something,” Henderson says.
The School Of Branch Design
TDECU has plans to open another branch on the University of Houston campus, and this fall, it will offer juniors at the university’s college of architecture a chance to design it. Students will have to apply to work on the project, which will give them some real-world experience in an academic setting.
For the credit union, Henderson and TDECU plan to loosen the reigns and interfere as little as possible as the students envision a branch that fits their distinct needs.
“We want to see this through their eyes because we’re not in their shoes,” Henderson says. “Why stifle their creativity?”
For example, traditional features included in TDECU’s current branches might not be relevant or attractive to these new would-be members. If that’s the case, TDECU doesn’t want them in its new branch, which it hopes to roll out into other markets as well.
Says Henderson, “We’re looking to these young students to design the branch of the future.”