It's fourth and inches at the mall. The crowd is going wild. What's the call?
Charge! -- with your Washington Redskins Visa card, that is.
For the football fan who has everything, the National Football League has teamed up with Citibank to offer fans a Redskin Visa credit card that comes in burgundy and gold, adorned with the team's helmet and logo.
And for fans of other teams, there are 26 other NFL Visa cards as well. The only team left out of the Citibank NFL Visa program is the New York Giants. That team already has its own Visa card with a different financial institution, launched during last year's Super Bowl Championship season, partly as a test to see how well the concept would work.
The NFL Visa card is for people "who eat, sleep and breathe football," Citibank and the NFL said in a release announcing its arrival. Or, put another way, "it's really for somebody who'd like to wear a football helmet all day but realizes that the world isn't quite ready for that," a Citibank spokesman said.
It also is a potential boon for the NFL, which will get a percentage of the sales, fees and interest on the cards. In addition, NFL Charities Inc., a league operation that makes donations to local and national charitable organizations, will get a 5 percent cut of the sales.
Besides the thrill of pulling out a Redskins credit card, why would a fan want one? Well, to start with, there's no annual fee charged for the first six months. But for football fans, even more significant is the opportunity to buy NFL merchandise at a discount -- or to get it for free if the fan uses the card often enough.
For every $5 rung up with the card, holders will earn a "Pro Dollar." Accumulated, the Pro Dollars can be used to buy NFL merchandise, from an inexpensive coach's hat to an expensive coach's jacket -- complete with the appropriate emblem, of course.
NFL Properties -- the licensing, marketing and publishing arm of the National Football League -- decided to launch its own credit card last fall after the demand for the Giant's experimental Visa card was greater than expected, said Don Garber, promotion director for NFL Properties.
The card "represents the epitome of our promotion efforts and gives fans the opportunity to show loyalty to their club and show their colors," Garber said.
But the NFL gets more than just additional promotion, Garber acknowledged. Although Garber declined to give specific figures, he said the NFL will receive a percentage of the sales, a share of the annual $25 fee when it is imposed and a share of the interest collected on card payments.
In return, Citibank gets another way to promote its Visa card, as well as access to additional mailing lists compiled by the NFL. The league has a variety of mailing lists -- from season-ticket holders to Super Bowl attendees -- that it has collected over the years.
The NFL-Citibank agreement is one of about 1,500 "affinity" credit card arrangements that have emerged over the past few years between financial institutions and colleges, religious groups, fraternal organizations and interest groups such as the National Audubon Society, according to Spencer Nilson, publisher of the Nilson Report, a newsletter that monitors the credit card industry.
However, Nilson added, only about half of these arrangements have actually resulted in cards being issued.
"It's another kind of promotion where the banks get a new way of promoting their cards and new customer lists and the groups get a new way of promoting their group and getting money for it," Nilson said.
So how much do the Redskins stand to benefit? "They'll get an enhanced image from the promotions, but they won't get any cash," Garber said. Nonetheless, if the program is successful, the Redskins and other teams may find their fees to the NFL reduced as the credit card revenue picks up.