Magazine article American Banker

Sony Fits with Citi's Big-Name Cobranding Strategy

Magazine article American Banker

Sony Fits with Citi's Big-Name Cobranding Strategy

Article excerpt

Citibank's cobranding announcement with Sony Corp. last week underscored how interested the New York bank is in marketing alliances-of a certain kind.

Saying that "alliances are a critical piece of our strategy," A. Sami Siddiqui, Citibank's general manager of credit cards in North America, said the company wants to work with others in the big leagues of corporate branding.

"We will be looking for new, big partners," Mr. Siddiqui said.

Sony and the Citicorp unit launched a cobranded MasterCard or Visa product that offers discounts on Sony merchandise and services.

Citibank has three major card partnerships-American Airlines, AT&T Corp., and Sony. The last two came into the fold since Mr. Siddiqui arrived in June 1997 from Providian Financial Corp. The biggest of the bank card issuers is looking to other companies' customers to satisfy its appetite for new accounts.

In January, Citibank acquired $14.5 billion of receivables from AT&T in what is now Citibank Universal Card Services, Jacksonville, Fla. That made up almost a fourth of Citibank's total portfolio, and few acquisition opportunities of that size will ever come along.

The potential of the Sony partnership is "immense," Mr. Siddiqui said.

Cardholders can redeem Sony points for items ranging from movie tickets to music CDs and televisions. Points multiply faster when the cards are used at participating retailers that sell Sony merchandise. So far, Sony has signed nine franchise operations with 1,000 retail outlets.

A print advertising campaign is touting the card as the "official currency of playtime."

"Entertainment is a very popular category," for cobranded credit cards, said Chris Theoharides, president of Advantage Consulting Group, Massapequa, N. …

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