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    CITGO Starts Centennial Year with Marketer Roundtables

    Year will feature the unveiling of a new street image and updates to industry leading brand initiatives.

    HOUSTON -- To kick-off the New Year and the centennial celebration of the creation of Cities Service, CITGO representatives will meet face-to-face with more than 500 marketers at 19 roundtable meetings across the country, enabling marketers to learn about the programs and offerings for 2010 that will help their businesses grow and ask questions directly to CITGO representatives and key partners, the company reported.

    "Despite the industrywide challenges over the past year, the CITGO brand is staying the course thanks to our emphasis on customer service, community involvement, quality products and the responsiveness of our sales force," said Gustavo Velásquez, vice president of supply and marketing for CITGO. "We are confident that by building on current initiatives our brand and the local marketers and retailers across our network will be in a strong position to thrive as the economy and industry begin to turn around. In looking back over the decades, we understand that our greatest strength lies in the partnerships that we have built through local marketers and retailers, including some who have been with us for 70 years and four generations."
    One of these long-time marketers is Francois Oil Co., a Cities Service/CITGO Marketer since 1939.
    "CITGO had a huge effect on my family," said Rick Francois of Francois Oil Co. "It's everything. It's been the center of our life. It not only supported our family, it supported several families in town and the effect it had on the town was critical. Our Cities, and then CITGO, became a meeting place. It made a huge impact."

    In order to ensure that marketers such as Francois Oil Co. have the tools they need to succeed in their local markets, each year CITGO reviews, updates and enhances its slate of marketing programs. Changes and additions to the 2010 programs include:

    -- The new Centennial re-image design for the nearly 7,000 CITGO retail locations will be unveiled Sept. 2, the day the brand's ancestor, Cities Service, was established 100 years ago.
    -- A continuation of the "local hero" advertising and public relations campaign that illuminates the contributions the locally owned and operated CITGO locations make to their communities.
    -- Evolution of Fueling Good, the social networking Web site that rewards people for doing good in their community.
    -- Revisions to the CITGO Grow Bucks program to provide enhanced access to funds for volume growth.
    -- Enhancements to the wide range of expenses reimbursable by the CITGO FAT Fund for efforts to improve the image of retail facilities.
    -- A new slate of customizable advertising materials that can be adapted to anything from a grand opening to customer appreciation days to special c-store offerings.
    -- The introduction of wireless broadband POS connectivity, offered in partnership with Sprint, that provides simple hardware and installation, along with the convenience of Wi-Fi at the retail level.
    In addition to these program updates, CITGO will add to its industry leading training programs. Developed in coordination with CITGO Buying Group and CBC Learning Centers, these programs cover a wide range of topics vital to local retailer operations, according to the company. Leading the way for 2010 are programs designed to educate marketers, retailers, and employees on the updated Payment Card Industry (PCI) regulations and help mitigate risk from data theft or the pitfalls of non-compliance. CITGO is also committed to providing guidance and support to ensure all equipment and software meets the new PCI requirements.

    Advancing consumer perception of the CITGO brand through programs that directly assist people in need remains a primary goal and is based on the underlying principles of solidarity and social development held by its shareholder, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

    One of these programs, currently celebrating its fifth year anniversary, is the CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program. Now operating in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, the program benefited approximately 200,000 households, 248 tribal communities and 245 homeless shelters, the company reported.

    Another program, Fueling Good, recognizes and rewards local heroes doing good in their communities and will launch again in mid-2010. And to assist those affected by the recent tragedy in Haiti, CITGO is purchasing one million dollars worth of much needed supplies and is matching dollar-for-dollar the donations made by its employees, marketers, partners and suppliers. These efforts will continue in 2010 to directly assist those who need help, further connect the nearly 7,000 locally owned CITGO operations with their neighbors, and highlight the charity and community efforts of CITGO marketers and retailers.

    "All of us at CITGO want to use 2010 as the springboard to grow and generate greater success for all those associated with the brand," said Velásquez in a released statement. "We are confident that the host of programs, along with the continued interaction with the communities that our local marketers and retailers serve, will help us mark the next chapter in the history of this great brand."

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