American Express

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A US company specializing in global financial services, based in Manhattan, New York City, with a tradition of using celebrities in its advertising campaigns. Founded in 1850, an arm of the Wells/Fargo name, it dominated shipping and express businesses in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, and when its near monopoly of the industry was ended by federal government intervention, it moved into broader financial, travel, and insurance services. Its primary global market became users of travellers' cheques, and then credit and debit cards during phases of globalization matched by the explosion of consumer culture. In 2007, Business Week and Interbrand ranked American Express as the fourteenth most valuable brand in the world, estimating it to be worth US$20.87 billion. Its brand has been sustained in award-winning advertising campaigns featuring well-known individuals from popular culture—film, television, and sport. The ‘Don't leave home without it’ slogan, coined in 1975 for its advertisements for travellers' cheques, and then used for its credit cards, was one that fitted the image of cosmopolitan, world-travelling sporting superstars such as Spanish golfer Sevvy Ballesteros in the 1980s. The slogan was revived in 2005. In 2004 the company launched its ‘My life. My card’ campaign, again using sporting celebrities, including golfer Tiger Woods, Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, snowboarder Shaun White, tennis players Venus Williams and Andy Roddick, and the then English soccer club Chelsea manager José Mourinho. The financial crisis of 2008 led to the company accepting federal support to bolster its finances, but its continuing image of individualist consumption blended with cosmopolitan glamour was a strong basis for the continuing impact and profile of its global brand.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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