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Rishi Naran, Asst VP of Sponsorships for BBVA Compass

BBVA Compass finds true north in its community outreach initiatives

By George Lang


For BBVA Compass, a growing full-service bank based in the South, naming rights for stadiums is not a panacea. While the home of the MLS’ Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash women’s team bears BBVA Compass’ name, the bank insists on community action that gives that logo depth and resonance.

“To put up a logo without high-level awareness means almost nothing,” said Rishi Naran, assistant vice president of sponsorship at BBVA Compass. “If we can prove that we are doing good, then it’s not just about a logo. It’s about customers and non-customers alike.”

The name “BBVA Compass” is still new to the public: it’s been less than a decade since Compass Bancshares of Birmingham, Ala. announced that it was being acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain’s second-largest banking group. But that acquisition resulted in more than a simple name change. Entire community philosophies came with the new ownership.

For starters, BBVA Compass imported its parent company’s team sponsorship philosophy. BBVA sponsors La Liga, the top professional football division of Spain’s football league system – it’s officially known as LigaBBVA. So now BBVA Compass sponsors several sports organizations: it is the official bank of the NBA, the WNBA and the NBA Development League, and individually sponsors the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the Birmingham Hammers NPSL club, the Dynamo and the Dash.

Naran, a 2013 Baylor University graduate, said BBVA Compass establishes the sponsorships when they see all upsides, from market position to the team’s collective values.

“For us, we really focus in on our key markets and find teams whose goals align with ours and are also in a key market,” he said. “But our goal is to be more than a logo. We want to have an impact with the team.”

In addition, BBVA Compass individually sponsors players such as the Rockets’ James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant. The bank uses Durant as its global brand ambassador.

“He’s a great spokesperson,” Naran said. “We use him in commercials and our events, and we sponsor his youth camp that’s happening in Austin this month.”

Once a formal relationship is in place, BBVA Compass deploys a number of civic improvement plans to enhance the bank’s outreach as well as its sponsored teams. Leading the charge is the Building a Better Community initiative, in which volunteers from both the bank and its sponsored teams undertake a benevolent works project. Started in 2012, Building a Better Houston provides financial education classes, soccer clinics and home renovations for residents of the East End section of Houston near BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Dynamo and the Dash.

For example, in 2015 a team of bank executives and members of the two soccer clubs worked to beautify the home of Richard and Sandra Sosa, whose house in Houston’s Second Ward had been in the family for generations but needed a great deal of repairs. As part of the project, the BBVA Compass Foundation funded a new roof, landscaping, electrical work and new interior and exterior paint, including the Sosas’ daughters’ bedrooms, which were painted in Dynamo and Dash team colors.

Another recent addition to BBVA Compass’ initiative profile is BBVA Bright Futures, a financial education and community enrichment program that can make real, tangible changes in the financial future of both individuals and nonprofits. Naran said the bank began a Bright Futures campaign called Random Acts of Brightness, in which bank employees were invited to pass out $25 gift cards to people who seemed like they were having problems with financial stability. The campaign helped bank employees look beyond the customer base and into the community. In early 2016, another project in Houston teamed BBVA Compass with The Pursuit, a 3,500-mile bike ride to raise funds for The Center, a facility specializing in the treatment of persons living with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities.

“The Bright Futures campaign is not a product push at all,” Naran said. “It’s more consideration and awareness, just so people are aware of who we are and that we’re focused on people.”

In addition, as part of its fundraising efforts on behalf of its sponsored teams, BBVA Bright Futures began working with DASH Digital Auction Showdown in May, using the app for its silent auctions to generate funds for team foundations.

“The app was a great test for us,” Naran said. “We saw a dramatic increase – it was fantastic, and we see uses for it in the future.”