ECONOMY

Banks working to put on their best face in runup to the 2004 Olympic Games

Greek commercial banks are busy preparing a broad range of promotions in view of next year’s Olympic Games that includes new products and distribution channels, issuing of new credit cards, cultural activities, sponsorships and contributions to volunteer schemes. Grand Sponsor Alpha Bank won the title of official bank for the Games as Grand National Sponsor, with a contribution of 74 million euros. It plans to open at least three new branches within Olympic installations – two in the media centers and one in the Olympic Village – and install at least 20 new ATMs. It has also undertaken to provide full hospitality services to 3,000 Greek and foreign visitors from their point of departure and until they return to base. The list includes foreign business leaders, customers and partners of the bank who will hold contacts with senior Alpha Bank officials to be briefed on developments in the Greek economy, particularly as regards investment. The Athens Hilton, which belongs to the bank’s subsidiary Ionian Hotels, will be the International Olympic Committee’s official hotel during the Games. Alpha’s range of Olympic banking products is spearheaded by the Athens 2004 Visa silver and gold credit cards, aimed primarily at higher-income earners and businesses. In collaboration with OTE Telecom and its mobile telephony subsidiary CosmOTE, Alpha’s silver Athens 2004 Visa provides holders with credits and discounts for a wide range of uses, including supermarkets and cinemas. Part of the revenue generated from these two cards will be contributed to Athens 2004, the organizers. The program «Say it to Alpha Bank» provides the possibility for borrowing at lower-than-market rates and greater repayment facilities to firms whose activities are related to Athens 2004. Alpha Bank’s program «Pentathlon» gives businesses and self-employed professionals privileged treatment in terms of rates and access to a variety of services if they choose at least one product from each of the five categories: loans, insurance, electronic services, deposits and cards. In terms of cultural activities, the bank is currently promoting the exhibition «Olympic Memorabilia» through various Greek cities and towns, aiming to sensitize the public to the idea of the Olympic Games. The Panorama of Olympic Sports aims to project 11 less widespread Olympic sports and will have visited 64 cities in Greece and Cyprus by May 2004. Alpha Bank is also managing the issue of six collection series of Olympic coins. In terms of other sponsorships, the bank has, since 2001, undertaken to upgrade the classic marathon race into one of the most important internationally, in terms of both level and number of participants. It is also sponsoring six Greek Olympic champions and athletes. Further, as official bank of the Games, it manages ticket distribution through its network; and 500 of its employees will serve as volunteers during the events. Other banks EFG Eurobank Ergasias will strive to utilize all opportunities for enhancing communication with the foreign investing public during the Games, officials told Kathimerini. Contacts in Greece and abroad are already proliferating, as foreign institutional investors are taking an increasing interest in the Greek market in view of the Games, they note; more than 50 such meetings (which include roadshows) took place in the first half of 2003 in Greece, the UK, Italy and the US, and interest looks like rising strongly in the next 12 months. In the framework of the Games, EFG Eurobank Ergasias will operate a small-scale hospitality program that includes a wide range of events, for the full range of clients but focusing on foreign institutional events. The National Bank of Greece (NBG) is the official sponsor of the Greek Weightlifting Federation and the Rythmic Gymnistics Ensemble team. It recently issued collection credit cards depicting these two teams; it is also sponsoring individual Greek athletes. Most Greek banks have decided to considerably expand their network of ATMs in points off their branch networks and plan vigorous advertising campaigns before and during the Games.