Olympia Beer Fans Get Carded

CU goes retro with Olympia Brewery logo on its credit cards.

March 18, 2013

A decade after Olympia Brewery ceased operations, Lee Wojnar noticed the iconic logo of its flagship beer still had street cred in Tumwater, Wash., its hometown.

“Younger people don’t even know the brewery as it existed,” says Wojnar, vice president of marketing for $162 million asset O Bee Credit Union. “But these kids were getting tattoos of the logo and putting it on their skateboards. We said, ‘Wait, there’s something here.’ ”
To Wojnar and O Bee CEO James Collins, the next step was obvious: Slap an Olympia label on a credit card issued by the credit union, which was formed in 1955 to serve Olympia Brewery employees.
The “Oly Gold” card taps into Olympia’s strong regional identity, which made it a Hollywood product placement hit in the 1960s and ’70s: Clint Eastwood and his orangutan each drank an Olympia beer in “Every Which Way But Loose,” while Dustin Hoffman (“The Graduate”) and Paul Newman (“Sometimes a Great Notion”) also downed the brew on the silver screen.
The card, which features a 1% cash back reward on purchases, has been a big hit across generations. “It brought back the icon that really was part of our history,” Wojnar says. “It brought back a very positive emotion to the community. How many credit cards evoke emotion? “Every time I present the card, people say, ‘Wow, I’d like to have one of those cards.’ ”
During the promotional period from March through December, O Bee realized a 5% increase in its overall credit card portfolio and a 10% increase in total cards issued. Among the Oly Gold cards distributed, 60.3% are active, with an average of 8.6 swipes per month, an average transaction of $57, and an average balance of $1,200.
Wojnar credits the card for helping O Bee grow its membership by 12.7% in 2012.
The strong response can be traced to a marketing campaign that featured massive handouts of T-shirts and replica Oly Gold cards, as well as guerilla tactics.
Among these tactics were the creation of a dress made of Oly Gold cards the “Oly Gold” girl dons while riding in cars during parades, and the sponsorship of local female race car driver Jessica Dana.
The logo on the Oly Gold card, which features a horseshoe, says “good luck,” Wojnar adds, “and that’s what it’s been.”