Donation to museum spotlights CUNA national ad campaign's history

September 23, 2015

MANCHESTER, N.H. (9/23/15)--A box of archive materials from CUNA’s 1970s and 1980s National Advertising Program to increase national interest in and awareness of credit unions has been donated to the America’s CU Museum in Manchester, N.H.

The historical materials were donated by Vicki Thomas of Weston, Conn., the former head of CUNA’s National Advertising program at the time, according to museum Executive Director Stephanie Smith, who said the materials will be included in the new CUNA Research Center.


America’s CU Museum Executive Director Stephanie Smith, left, received archive materials from CUNA’s National Advertising Program during the ’70s and ’80s from Vicki Thomas, former head of the CUNA program. They are holding campaign materials, including a photo of credit unions’ prize-winning Rose Bowl float and coverage of their sponsorship of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. (Photo provided by America’s CU Museum)

CUNA’s Executive Committee unanimously approved the program for credit unions in February 1972 to increase awareness of credit unions, stimulate additional statewide spending to make the messages heard and seen by more people, and emphasize “belonging” as the unique quality credit unions offer, Thomas said.

Its tagline, “Join Your Credit Union--It’s Where You Belong,” was adopted not only by U.S. credit unions but also those in Canada and Australia. The campaign raised more than $857,666 with voluntary contributions using a formula of $50 per $1 million in assets. Leagues from Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin donated 100% of their share and CUNA Mutual Group donated $200,000 to the campaign.

The campaign brought these national highlights for credit unions:

  • Actor and credit union member Chad Everett, star of television’s  “Medical Center,” became credit unions’ national spokesperson in 12 nationwide television commercials appearing during the World Series, NFL football, ABC and CBS network news,  and “60 Minutes,” and four color national print ads in Newsweek, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s and Redbook.
  • In 1976 and 1980, credit unions sponsored ABC’s coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, and Lake Place, N.Y. The program developed tie-in materials so credit unions could identify themselves to their members as Olympic sponsors.
  • Credit unions sponsored “Today in Congress,” a news information program hosted by Joseph McCaffrey on radio WMAL, Washington, D.C. The program was heard daily by members of Congress, their assistants and administrative agency personnel.
  • In 1978, the program took a new direction emphasizing the people credit unions serve with its “All Kinds of People” theme premiering during a National Credit Union Week radio buy of more than 24,000 spots. Its new television messages focused on people telling why credit unions were unique.
  • Credit unions also had a float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Their float won the Queens’ Trophy, Sweepstakes, Theme Prize and President’s Trophy.

“At that time most credit unions did not have a marketing budget or a marketing staff. There were 23,000 credit unions and 38 million members,” said Thomas. “Today there are over 100 million members and a little over 6,000 credit unions. Credit unions have come a long away and marketing directors are doing a great job continuing to promote the many advantages of belonging and providing excellent service to members.”

Thomas left CUNA in 1983 to join the ABC network in Chicago and then New York.