SDCCU Scores Big With The Poinsettia Bowl

A college winter sporting event offers employment and awareness for a region and a credit union.


San Diego County Credit Union ($6.2B, San Diego, CA) was chartered in 1938 to serve employees of California’s most southwestern county. It opened its field of membership in the 1970s to all those living, working, or worshipping in the city. Today, anyone in the county can join the $6 billion institution, and it takes its role as the area’s largest locally owned financial cooperative seriously. Its numerous partnerships with local philanthropies helps the credit union fulfill its founding principle — “people come first and profits second” — as well as supports its efforts to embrace a “contrarian position and forward-thinking approach to the financial industry.”

One of the credit union’s forward-thinking strategies includes sponsorship of an NCAA post-season bowl game. In 2005, when the organizers of San Diego’s Holiday Bowl revived the then-defunct Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego County Credit Union jumped at the chance to sponsor the game and assume top billing of the nationally covered event. The city’s Qualcomm Stadium hosts both games as part of the post-season lineup, which includes 35 bowl games played across the country.

Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

Benefits Of The Bowl Game

The credit union’s educational and promotional output have taken a jump as of late, increasing from $1.1 million in March of 2012 to $1.7 million a year later. But if critics suggest the credit union’s spending on social and civic activities is ostentatious, first quarter 2013 performance data demonstrates SDCCU is a responsible steward of members’ money in many ways. For example, according to Search & Analyze data on, its operating expenses as a percentage of average assets was notably lower than its asset-based and state peers, 1.64% versus 2.86% and 3.44%, respectively. Moreover, its 12-month growth in operating expenses, 1.52%, demonstrates an ongoing effort to control costs. By comparison, credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets posted a 12-month growth of 7.39% while state peers posted a growth of 3.68%. To boot, SDCCU’s efficiency ratio was 52.41% versus 72.05% for asset-based peers and 72.90% for credit unions in California.

Below, Nathan Schmidt, executive vice president of marketing and business development at San Diego County Credit Union talks about what it takes to seize a sponsorship of this magnitude and the impact credits unions across the United States can make on their local communities, regardless of budget.

Were you hesitant about tackling this sponsorship?

NS: SDCCU was never hesitant about becoming the title sponsor. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the Holiday Bowl are generally played within a week of each other during San Diego’s slowest tourism time of the year. This helps generate work hours for the many part-time employees of the travel and tourism industry. As San Diego’s largest locally owned financial institution, SDCCU helps put our community members to work when they otherwise might not have the opportunity.

Additionally, $1 from every ticket sold goes to a local charity. Last year the San Diego Bowl Game Association was able to donate more than $41,000 to the local Make-A-Wish chapter.

Has this sponsorship increased overall credit union awareness?

NS: The bowl game raises awareness not only for our credit union but also for the credit union industry and, of course, the San Diego region. When the rest of the country is snowed-out in late December, the beautiful images of the local region get viewers thinking about taking a vacation to sunny San Diego.

What are the top three benefits you’ve seen come out of this sponsorship?

NS: SDCCU has found that our members are engaged, the community is alive with civic pride, and the credit union industry has a heightened awareness.

What do staff and members say about the sponsorship?

NS: Staff and members are proud of the sponsorship and appreciate the local economic impact of the bowl game. Since the inception of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, a combined economic impact of $67.9 million has been generated.

How do you suggest other, smaller credit unions identify sponsorship opportunities in their community? 

NS: There are many spirited volunteers in our communities across the United States that want to help various causes and do so successfully every day. If you’re unsure about where to begin, start by looking at your field of membership and identify what is most important to the organization. If the credit union is sponsor-based, work with the sponsor to see about underwriting various programs.

What other sponsorships do you have? Do you have staff dedicated solely to handling sponsorships?

NS: SDCCU supports more than 75 nonprofits locally each year. Our partnerships with these philanthropies allow us to help shape the lives of those in our communities through volunteerism, financial support, and public awareness. In addition to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the credit union supports SDCCU Walk MS, San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, the San Diego Blood Bank, San Diego County Crime Stoppers, and many more.

We have a community relations officer to help coordinate and promote the many activities throughout the year.

What Do The Numbers Say?

The Poinsettia Bowl sponsorship has had a demonstrable effect on San Diego County, but what has the increased awareness done for the credit union? In part, it has contributed to SDCCU’s 12-month share growth, which was 9.02% as of first quarter versus 6.50% for credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets and 4.49% for California credit unions. Its 12-month member growth 6.19% compared to 4.40% and 1.71% for asset-based and state peers, respectively. Its members hold an average 2.66 share accounts each versus 1.98 for asset-based peers and 1.96 for state peers.

Loan growth has slowed as SDCCU, it posted negative growth as of first quarter 2013, and it has fewer loans per member, 0.47 versus 0.55 for asset-based peers and 0.45 for state peers, but those accounts have higher balances. SDCCU’s average loan balance was $27,199 versus $14,286 and $16,444 for asset-based and state peers. And although its market share, 2.89%, is not as strong as its peers, 8.31% for credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets and 4.03% for California credit unions, SDCCU members use their credit union’s products and services robustly. SDCCU’s average member relationship was $34,415 versus $7,870 for asset-based peers and $7,341 for state peers.

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