Don Crisman’s e-mail in-box has been filling up steadily.

“It’s getting crazy,” said Crisman. “My granddaughter even set up a Facebook account” to handle his messages from the public.

Crisman, you see, has become a celebrity of sorts. The 74-year-old Kennebunk resident is featured in two Visa commercials promoting the credit card company’s “Super Bowl Trip for Life” sweepstakes.

Crisman, a New England Patriots fan, is a charter member of the Never Miss a Super Bowl club. He is joined by Larry Jacobson of San Francisco (a 49ers fan), Tom Henschel of Natrone Heights, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., (a Steelers fan) and Robert Cook of Brown Deer, Wis. (a Packers fan).

“I don’t feel like a celebrity,” said Crisman. “I just feel like I’m a crazy guy who joined a group of guys who like football a lot. And we somehow managed to get there all the time.”

But the four men are perfect for Visa’s new NFL campaign.

In its 15th year of sponsorship with the NFL, Visa was looking for a way to capture the passion of the league’s fans.

“And we thought, what would be the ultimate prize for passionate fans to get?” said Alex Craddock, head of U.S. marketing for Visa. “Super Bowl tickets for life, because they’re so hard to get.

“And then we thought, wouldn’t it be great if there had been people who have been to every Super Bowl? They would have great stories to tell. And that’s where the power of the Internet brings people together,” Craddock said. “That’s how we found this wonderful group of guys who have done what we want to offer to every football fan. They’re very charismatic, are full of amazing stories and provided the opportunity to bring our idea to life.”

Representatives from Visa met individually with each of the four men and brought them together in Tampa in late August. The results were two TV commercials: “Meet the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club” and “50 Super Bowls.” The commercials can also be seen at www.visa.com/advertising.

The first one is self-explanatory. The second one relates the men’s goal: to be at the first 50 Super Bowls.

“That’s my goal,” said Crisman, who at one time received media credentials for the Super Bowl (writing for stamp collecting or antiques magazines). “It’s up to the man upstairs if I get there.”

The next Super Bowl, in February, will be the 45th.

Not long ago, the group had five members. Stan Whitaker of Denver dropped out after Super Bowl XLII, in 2008, for health reasons. Whitaker is one of the reasons that Crisman is in the club – he provided the tickets to the first Super Bowl, in Los Angeles, when the two lived in Denver.

Crisman has seen the two commercials, which are appearing during NFL games and other telecasts, and he likes them.

“My only disappointment is that Larry and I don’t get to talk in them,” he said.

No problem, said Visa’s Craddock. So much film was shot that Visa plans to release a segment on each man on its Facebook page: (www.facebook.com/visafansforlife).

“We want to bring each guy to life individually, with their unique experiences,” Craddock said. “We had so much great content from these guys that we thought it would be fantastic to have a film dedicated to each of them.

“It was hard to do it in the commercials, with only 30 seconds,” he said. “We needed to give each guy a film of his own.”

Crisman said the filming was a unique experience. He thought maybe three or four people would come to his house to work with him. In fact, it was an entire film crew.

“There were trucks loaded with lights and sound equipment,” he said. “It was way beyond anything I imagined.”

Crisman was filmed in Kennebunk one summer day, starting at the Cape Porpoise pier as the sun rose. Filming lasted from 5:30 a.m. until dark, with a few breaks.

Crisman told his stories and showed off his memorabilia, including a case holding about 35 footballs, each signed by a Super Bowl MVP. Crisman is seen in one of the commercials standing in front of the case.

Visa brought the four men together for a photo shoot in Tampa in August. “It was 96 degrees,” said Crisman. “We were all sweating and they had to keep fixing our makeup.”

They also started to get excited to go to Dallas, site of the upcoming Super Bowl XLV.

“I just hope Dallas gets six or seven losses quick,” Crisman said of the Cowboys. “I don’t want to see a home team have home-field advantage in the Super Bowl. With me, other than a Red Sox or Patriots win, the next best thing is a Yankees or Cowboys loss.”

At least Crisman knows where he will get his ticket. Since Super Bowl XXXIII, the NFL has sold tickets to members of the club at face value. Before that, they either went through the teams or had to pay scalper prices. Twice, Crisman scrambled to buy tickets on the morning of the big game.

Crisman’s wife, Beverley, attended many of the early games. Now she travels to the cities where the games are played to meet old friends and socialize, but she doesn’t go to the games.

Crisman thinks Visa’s campaign and prize are wonderful.

“I just wish they had started it about 40 years ago,” he joked. “Maybe I would have won and I would have saved a lot of money. I know this is an expensive habit, but I enjoy it.

“We always make two weeks out of it and have a good time,” he said. “It’s not just about football.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]