Hit-it-Here Cafe, Safeco Field, Seattle

What do a bank and a baseball team have in common? It’s not a trick question.
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Posted February 4, 2011
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ING Direct seemed the odd choice to co-brand a café at Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of the Mariners baseball team. ING is an online bank with no bricks-and-mortar presence except, peculiarly, a few streetside coffee and donut shops in various American cities.

But the ballpark’s 5600-square-foot Hit-it-Here Cafe, originally sponsored by Budweiser when the park was built in 2000, was now without a sponsor.

“ING Direct wanted a way to connect to the local market,” says Jim Risher, director of manufacturing for Brand Forward Group, a Seattle branding and design firm. And brainstorming seized upon one word both parties share: save. It’s a baseball statistic for a relief pitcher who comes in in the late innings and holds a lead. And it’s a central principle of banking.

The design, by Brand Forward (which also did the fabricating and installation), centers around a Wall of Saves full of baseball imagery and photographs of baseball’s all-time statistical save leaders.

The café is also trimmed with ING’s signature orange color, has stadium seats looking out onto the field and is full of compelling Mariners references, like a big image of current hero Ichiro Suzuki just inside one of the entrances.

One seemingly disconnected element in the café is a custom-painted Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a platform under the message, “Knock your savings out of the park.” Why a Harley? Because, says Risher, ING president and ceo Arkadi Kuhlmann just loves motorcycles.

It might also be a reference to the speed of the project. “This was definitely a fast track,” says Brand Forward chief creative officer Ken Barnes. “We entered the conversation in early March. The concept and design were accomplished in only four days. Both ING Direct and the Mariners approved the concept for construction the same day it was presented, with no revisions.” Zoom zoom!