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Does Bo know banking? Not sure, but he sure knows marketing

Connie Prater

Does legendary pro athlete Bo Jackson know banking? A recent profile on LostLettermen.com reveals the 48-year-old former NFL and MLB player is a co-owner and director at a small community bank in suburban Chicago.

Jackson gained fame in the late 1980s for his impressive athletic talents that included achievements on both the football and baseball fields. That versatility led Nike to sign Jackson up for a hugely popular television ad that featured the athlete playing different sports with other legends (Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe, among others) who declared: “Bo knows basketball … Bo knows football … Bo knows baseball … Bo knows golf …, etc.”

Funny: When Jackson picks up a guitar and bombs with the instrument, blues music legend Bo Diddley declares: “Bo don’t know diddly.”
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Well, it did make me wonder when I read that Jackson became part-owner of Burr Ridge Bank and Trust in 2009 just what Bo knows about banking. His sports playing career ended when he retired in 1995, following a 1991 hip injury during a football tackle. That was 20 years ago. Since then, according to the profile, Jackson has been raising his family, building community sports facilities and encouraging young athletes to follow in his footsteps.

Jackson admits in the profile that his only previous banking experience was a stint as a bank teller when he was in college at Auburn University. Today, he is one of 21 directors at Burr Ridge. Jackson says he doesn’t dabble in the day-to-day operations of the bank, which is located in the city he lives in with his family.

It’s true that Jackson’s bank deal isn’t on the scale of some other successful athletic legends. (Former Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan is majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA basketball team and former quarterback Roger Staubach is a successful real estate developer.)

What Jackson does bring to the table at the community bank is his popularity and marketing appeal as a pitchman. The bank’s website features a prominent picture of Jackson. Smart move.

Bankrate.com’s Safe and Sound star rating system gives the bank four out of five stars. According to Burr Ridge’s financial statements, as reported by Bankrate, the bank showed growth during the first quarter of 2011. Total assets as of March 31, 2011, were $157 million. That’s up from $151 million at the end of the 2010. (Note Bankrate is the corporate owner of CreditCards.com.)

It was risky business opening a bank in 2009 as the Great Recession ripped through the country. The economy isn’t much better today. Banks larger than Burr Ridge fail every week. But then, they don’t know Bo!

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