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persuasion

CIBC plans to open a lounge at Union Station in downtown Toronto, the jumping-off point for a new airport express train that it is sponsoring.

Those who are smart with their money know never to get their foreign currency at the airport. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is hoping to change that.

On Friday, CIBC plans to announce a multiyear sponsorship deal as the exclusive financial services partner of the Union Pearson Express, Toronto's new rail link to Pearson International Airport set to open in the spring. It is also the first partnership the UP Express has announced.

For CIBC, the deal complements another inked in December, 2013, with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. Among other benefits, CIBC's presence at Pearson allows it to offer the same rates for foreign exchange as it does at branches elsewhere. The advertising on the UP Express is a chance to raise awareness of that service among people accustomed to generally higher rates at Travelex kiosks.

The deal also represents a shift in how CIBC is considering the investment of its marketing and sponsorship dollars as the bank attempts to increase the profile of its brand.

"I looked at a lot of properties – putting your name on buildings, for lack of a better word," said Stephen Forbes, executive vice-president of brand, corporate and client relationships at CIBC. "… If I look at putting a name on an arena, for example, while you certainly have your brand out there, it doesn't help you in terms of leveraging your day-to-day business activities."

Instead, Mr. Forbes is looking for a chance to use sponsorships that make the brand interact with people. At the airport, that has meant foreign-exchange services and free luggage carts provided by the bank. On the UP Express, the bank will advertise its airport services in the trains and open a CIBC lounge at Union Station in downtown Toronto, with seating, refreshments, and ATMs that will dispense U.S. dollars, euros, British pounds, Mexican pesos, and other currency based on traveller demand.

ATMs are part of CIBC's business, of course – but extras such as lounge perks or sponsoring WiFi Internet access on the trains are increasingly important for marketers in a cluttered environment already plastered with advertising messages. Canadian marketers spent $2.85-billion on sponsorships in 2013, according to the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study – on average, slightly more than one-fifth of marketing budgets.

These investments can be of marginal benefit if consumers are not aware of them. With the amount of marketing messages lobbed at us constantly online, not to mention on television, radio and while we're walking down the street, people have become adept at tuning out advertising.

Brands that can be seen to be providing an actual service, then, are more likely to make an impact. American Express has done that with its Pearson airport deal, offering a fast lane through security for its credit-card customers.

Metrolinx has taken a service-oriented approach, as opposed to just offering advertising space, as it has been negotiating sponsorships for the UP Express.

"We're looking at every element of the customer experience and how to enhance it, through these partnerships," said UP Express president Kathy Haley.

That could include sponsored check-in kiosks at Union Station and on-train entertainment provided by a brand, for example. Ms. Haley also suggested food retailers could offer digital ordering from the train for pick-up at the station.

Multiyear "founding partner" deals like CIBC's allow companies exclusivity on the UP Express in their business categories. More are to be announced in technology, telecom and professional services consulting.

"They will all be able to add further enhancements to the travel experience in their categories," Ms. Haley said.

Metrolinx is also hoping advertisers will be attracted by the chance to woo new customers: It estimates 2.5 million people will ride the line each year, roughly 60 per cent of whom will come from outside the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, Ont.

In the banking category, differentiation is especially difficult and Canadians are reluctant to switch. Other than poaching from competitors, the most reliable way to court new customers is when they are in the market for a new account or service; students, first-time home buyers or newcomers to the country.

"We're seeing that already at the airport. … What newcomers want is access to cash and access to credit. So we have offers designed to give them credit very quickly, and establish that relationship with the bank," Mr. Forbes said. "Just because of the amount of newcomers who come through the airport and then through the downtown core, we expect that business to grow exponentially versus the market."