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Brand on the run

Struggling Fidelity turns to ex-Beatle to lure boomers

Fidelity Investments, struggling to convince aging baby boomers that it's the place to park their money, has turned to an icon of that generation to help market its mutual funds: Sir Paul McCartney.

The 63-year-old former Beatle is the first big celebrity endorser for the staid Boston mutual fund giant, and analysts say it comes at a critical time for Fidelity.

The firm is losing market share, and yesterday Fidelity fell to fifth from third among the world's largest money managers as other companies grew their assets faster, according to a survey released by Pensions & Investments magazine. Meanwhile, Fidelity has come under scrutiny in recent months by federal securities regulators related to an alleged stock trader gift scandal.

McCartney makes his debut tonight in a 30-second television commercial on ABC during the NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. It is the first time he has ever given personal footage to an ad campaign.

The advertisement, titled ''This is Paul," chronicles the music legend's life, from his days as a quarryman to Beatlemania to fatherhood, and finally, knighthood.

With his' ''Band on the Run" as the musical backdrop, the commercial ends with a voiceover (not McCartney's) and the only mention of Fidelity: ''The key is never stop doing what you love. Call us today. We'll help you plan for the next part of your life. Fidelity Investments. Smart move."

Arnold Worldwide of Boston created the television spot and other print advertisements that will start running next week in publications like The New Yorker and Money magazine. Fidelity, which is also cosponsoring McCartney's new music tour, would not disclose how much it is paying him for the campaign, but marketers said it is likely in the millions.

Before snagging McCartney, Fidelity's biggest celebrity endorsers were comedians Lily Tomlin and Don Rickles in the late 1990s. But they only appeared in advertisements with former Fidelity star fund manager Peter Lynch, who oversaw the Fidelity Magellan fund.

''I'm really pleased to be working with Fidelity Investments," McCartney said in a statement. ''We have a lot in common -- a commitment to helping people, a dedication to the arts, and a belief that you should never stop doing what you love doing."

McCartney was busy preparing for his upcoming tour in Miami, his publicist said, and could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

As part of the deal, Fidelity has also agreed to create a charity to raise funds to benefit school music education programs and will offer an exclusive McCartney CD for Fidelity clients.

''We're reaching a whole new level pairing Fidelity Investments and Sir Paul McCartney," said Claire Huang, executive vice president of marketing for Fidelity.

Marketers and mutual fund analysts say scoring McCartney as a pitchman is a huge feat for Fidelity, which has launched a major push to appeal to the tens of millions of baby boomers expected to retire over the next decade. Last year, the company rolled out Fidelity Retirement Advantage, a series of planning and money-management tools, accounts, and investment services aimed at helping retirees make their savings last through their golden years and more efficiently spend their savings from various retirement vehicles.

Fidelity's attempt to make inroads with this demographic has been slow, said Geoff Bobroff, president of Bobroff Consulting Inc., an East Greenwich, R.I. mutual fund industry consultant. But snagging a star like McCartney, Bobroff said, could help Fidelity further penetrate this market.

''He's an icon that the boomer generation can associate with and identify with," Bobroff said.

Burt Greenwald of BJ Greenwald Associates, a Philadelphia mutual fund consulting firm, said Magellan's mediocre performance has had a significant impact on Fidelity clients and the company could use someone like McCartney to help it emerge as the leading financial adviser for people entering their retirement years.

Moreover, McCartney is not just a boomer star, but someone who transcends multiple generations, said Boston University assistant marketing professor Frederic Brunel.

''You don't alienate younger customers. If you're 35 or 55, you still like Paul McCartney," Brunel said.

Other marketers say the timing couldn't be better for Fidelity, which has come under scrutiny in recent months by federal securities regulators who are considering a civil charge against the fund company stemming from allegations that its traders accepted lavish gifts and entertainment from brokers who did business with the company.

Meanwhile, a criminal investigation by the US attorney's office is focusing on whether brokers from other firms offered drugs or prostitutes to Fidelity traders as a reward for getting the firm's business.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

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