MBNA gains naming rights to Thames Clippers as it aims to ‘digitise the Thames’

UK credit card provider MBNA has acquired the naming rights to London river fleet provider Thames Clippers as it puts in place plans to "digitise the Thames".

The three-year initial partnership will see the MBNA brand name pushed across the fleet, with digital displays and advertising opportunities for MBNA partnerships, which include Virgin Atlantic and RSPCA, to be rolled out over the coming months.

Chief marketing and commercial officer at MBNA, Michael Donald, told The Drum that the credit card company, which is owned by Bank of America, also has plans to team with retailers to push out beacon messages for users of the Clippers.

“We want to work closely with some of the big retailers in London like Hamleys, Selfridges, Harrods, and John Lewis to ensure that visitors to London get offers in real time when they’re travelling to tell them about London and purchase more goods in London.

“What I want to do is what I call digitising the Thames. For me the Thames is very point to point – you’ve got all the curves so it’s quite difficult from a comms perspective. What I’d like to be able to do is if a commuter is on the boat, they might want one type of offer, but if it’s a visitor to London as soon as they enable their phone, the retailers within a 500m circumference of the piers can make offers as they step off the boat.”

Donald also revealed that “a big partnership in the retail environment” is set to be announced before the end of the year, which will involve loyalty based offers and advertising opportunities.

MBNA underwent a rebrand last year and repositioned the company as ‘making life easier’, something Donald believes the new partnership with Thames Clippers fits into.

A new MBNA mobile app is set to launch next year which will tie in with the Thames Clippers app to facilitate easy payment for consumers.

“What we’ll then do is link our credit card app to the MBNA Clippers app which will then increase footfall on the river, so it will very much be a symbiotic partnership.

Then we have a relationship with Mastercard, Visa and American Express so as their electronic wallets become available to consumers we’ll link those wallets to this asset to bring even greater footfall.”

Donald added that he also envisages the boats being used for charity partners such as WWF and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, where the colours of the charity would be displayed via LED lighting and also football partners, which include West Ham, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.

“For Breakthrough Breast Cancer Week we’ll turn the boat pink, or for WWF charity week we’d have people dressed as tigers collecting donations.

“We’re partners for some of the biggest football clubs in London so we have West Ham, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, so again we want to do things like take the boat to Chelsea for a match, so playing on the dynamic of a football weekend, you could have an Arsenal boat going along one side and a Chelsea boat going along the other.

Thames Clippers, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary operating on the river, expects passenger numbers to reach 3.6 million by the end of 2014.

Sean Collins, co-founder and chief executive of Thames Clippers added: “In our 15th year of serving London’s commuters and visitors I’m delighted we have a new partner on board. The partnership with MBNA will help Thames Clippers expand our service by growing our fleet and ensure we contribute to the Mayor’s ambitious passenger growth targets for the Thames.”

The partnership between Thames Clippers and MBNA, which will see a new boat join the fleet in 2015, was supported by AEG Global Partnerships, part of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, majority owner of the Thames Clippers service and The O2.

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