The Virgin marketing machine was super quick out of the blocks this year, announcing a two-season shirt sponsorship with Newcastle United Football Club before many of us had taken down the Christmas trimmings. The timing couldn't have been better too, as the deal was struck the day before a rousing 3-0 triumph over Manchester United.
This week Virgin Money followed up with a photocall at its Northumberland Street branch in Newcastle where the vivid, new red branding was in evidence for all to see. As you'd expect, Sir Richard Branson was in the thick of it and in his element, smiling from ear to ear in his very own little black and white striped number.
While the 50,000-plus Geordies will be more concerned with the names on the back of shirts rather than the corporate logo on the front, those shirts and the Virgin Money branding will be much in evidence as the "toon army" descends on Premier League grounds up and down the land.
Away from the balloons, football shirts and razzmatazz, Virgin has also started to lay its stall out on the product front.
Two savings accounts have been launched, the Virgin Easy Access Saver and the Virgin Easy Access Cash ISA. The interest rate is the same for both at 2.85 per cent which is not to be sniffed at, especially when you take a closer look.
While you can get a better rate of 3.1 per cent on an easy-access savings account from Santander, the interest rate, as with many best buy accounts, is boosted by a 12-month introductory bonus, in this case a hefty 2.6 per cent. With the Virgin product, what you see is what you get, 2.85 per cent variable interest rate, no short-term bonus, unlimited, penalty-free withdrawals and available online, via the telephone and in branch.
The simple and transparent theme is evident in the Virgin ISA deal too, where the 2.85 per cent rate can be bettered by 0.2 per cent courtesy of AA Savings.
Again the Virgin offering isn't inflated by an introductory bonus, and unlike some top rates you are free to transfer in from previous years' ISA accounts.
All in all it's been a hectic opening for Branson and his crew and they've got off to a promising start.
However this is little more than the pre-match warm up and it will be more than just the masses inside St James's Park who'll be keeping an eye on what happens next, waiting to see if they can deliver for the full 90 minutes.
Nationwide ups the ante with best-buy credit card
Only last week I was sifting through the raft of new deals and incentives on offer from banks and building societies as they began 2012 with a vengeance.
From Tuesday competition will intensify as Nationwide Building Society hits back with a market-leading credit card.
The Select Credit Card is an excellent all-rounder, and there five solid reasons to give it a look.
The card comes with an interest-free deal on purchases for 18 months, three months more than long-time table toppers Tesco Bank and M&S Money.
There is a 0 per cent offer on balance transfers too, and while it won't trouble the Barclaycard Platinum 24-month card at the No 1 spot, a 17-month deal with a balance transfer fee of 2.95 per cent isn't too shabby.
When you consider the average interest rate for new credit cards is almost 18.4 per cent APR, the Select representative rate of 12.9 per cent APR looks cheap. The rate you receive will depend on your credit score, and could be as low as 9.9 per cent APR. Nationwide offers a "soft quote facility" where you can find out the rate you'd be offered without it affecting your credit file.
Another plus point is that all purchases abroad are free and won't attract the 2.75 per cent foreign loading fee levied by most credit cards.
The fifth and final benefit is that customers also receive cashback of 0.5 per cent on all sterling purchases.
It's a tasty offer and may well trigger similar deals from rivals.
Andrew Hagger – Moneynet.co.uk