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UConn Coach Edsall Hired As Farmington Bank Pitchman

Farmington Bank has scored a touchdown with its new recruit to quarterback its marketing campaign.

It's a coach, actually. The steadily growing mutual bank will announce today that University of Connecticut football coach Randy Edsall has signed a two-year agreement to become the bank's pitchman.

Edsall will appear in print, radio and television advertising and make personal appearances for the bank, beginning Jan. 1. For the past five years, Edsall has been a frontman for Bridgeport-based People's United Bank, a deal that expired in the summer.

"I've always admired the coach, so I asked, and the timing was right," said John J. Patrick Jr., the Farmington Bank chairman and chief executive. "As much as I have respect for what he has done, he has respect for the type of organization we are. Our growth has proven that we are trying to create economic growth through our loans to individuals and businesses."

Both the bank and Edsall declined to comment on how much Edsall will be paid, but marketing experts said it could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the two years.

The signing is a coup for the 159-year-old bank that is expanding at a time when many banks are still just trying to hold steady. It recently shortened its name from Farmington Savings Bank to emphasize its commercial lending capabilities. The name will change on branches early next year.

In October, the bank moved into a new, 53,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, nearly double the size of its previous space, which was spread out over five locations.

Farmington also is expanding east of the Connecticut River, opening a branch in Glastonbury in the first three months of 2010. The bank expects to add five branches in the next year to its existing network of 12.

Marketing experts said that landing a high-profile celebrity helps differentiate a business in the mind of potential customers.

"Most people are tired of advertising," Subrata Sen, a professor of marketing at Yale University in New Haven, said Monday. "But when they hear or see someone they know, it has been shown they pay more attention to the ad."

He added, "If it is someone you know, someone you like, that is going to be very positive."

Edsall's profile in Connecticut has risen significantly in the past five years, as he led the UConn Huskies to their first bowl appearance in 2004 and their first national ranking in the AP Poll in 2007. UConn will make its fourth bowl appearance in January.

In October, Edsall — UConn's football coach since late 1998 — won praise for his sensitive handling of the stabbing death of UConn cornerback Jasper "Jazz" Howard.

UConn basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma also have had marketing agreements with banks.

This wasn't the first time that Patrick has tried to woo Edsall. When Patrick worked at the former Banknorth, Patrick approached Edsall, but ultimately lost out to People's United, then named People's Bank.

Since then, the two have kept in touch. Recently, Farmington Bank was a sponsor of Edsall's summer football camp. Edsall also spoke to the bank's managers about team building.

Edsall declined to comment Monday on the agreement with People's.

Edsall said he was excited to be working with a community bank that was focused on achieving performance goals through strong leadership — the same approach that Edsall said he takes in the UConn football program.

"We are committed to elevating performance on and off the field," Edsall said. "And that's what Farmington Bank is trying to do."

The bank's sharp focus on Connecticut, especially central Connecticut, also was attractive, Edsall said.

Edsall's high-level profile in the state is key to the agreement because the bank can't use the UConn name or logo or refer to Edsall as the university's football coach.