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I’m at Street Fight Summit West today and moderating a panel later on how “big data” and local media are coming together. Meanwhile Peter Krasilovsky and I are working the room and pulling out whatever learnings we can from sessions.

One notable discussion so far was with LevelUp’s John Valentine, who spoke at our ILM East show in March. He revealed the company has partnered with Sovereign Bank, which sees an opportunity to get “top of wallet” within the LevelUp mobile payments and loyalty app.

That comes down to the fact that LevelUp is mostly agnostic to different credit cards that can be linked to its front end. Support from Sovereign will be great exposure for LevelUp in gaining new users — a challenging but vital step in the relatively nascent mobile payments space.

But more interesting to me is how this partnership came about. According to Valentine, Sovereign looked at its data and saw that LevelUp transactions were spiking and on pace to reach 75 percent of Sovereign card users in Boston (where LevelUp is based and indexes highest) within nine months.

Sovereign then decided to put close to a quarter of a million dollars behind a LevelUp outdoor ad campaign. This includes billboards and subway (“T”) trains. These are boosting awareness in what is, again, a very consumer-aquisition centric model.

These ads will also come with incentives in the form of $5 from Sovereign just to sign up for LevelUp, and another $5 credit to link a Soverein credit or debit card. This is all done by scanning QR codes in these ads to sign up.

Interestingly, this is in tune with LevelUp’s QR-based payment format. But instead of flashing a QR code on one’s phone to be read by merchant point of sale hardware, users are scanning codes using the app. Either way, it will further acclimate users to that QR-centric use case.

This is not insignifigant and is a big step for LevelUp to continue to tackle that consumer acquisition challenge that’s common to mobile payments players. This will be a land grab both for users and merchants — and channel relationships like Sovereign will be an important flank in that attack.

“We’re glad to have a bank that is injecting money into the LevelUp ecosystem,” said Valentine. “Where they want to be top of wallet.”


Come see Valentine’s colleague Josh Capilouto dive deeper on all this at our MLM San Francisco conference in three short weeks.

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