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Responsible Marketing

Responsible or not? Visa’s Olympic sponsorship

By August 19, 2008August 14th, 20203 Comments

If you watched the Olympics, you’ve seen Visa’s pervasive Go World ads.

Morgan Freeman‘s distinctive voice always grabs me, but the relevance and timeliness of the ads have kept my attention.

Here’s the ad Visa ran immediately after Michael Phelps won his unprecedented 8th Gold Medal.


Each Visa ad has closed with the following line:

Proud sponsor of the Olympic Games.
And the only card accepted there.

Visa’s exclusive arrangement lets them say as much in all their advertising, and a high percentage of the people attending the games sign up for a new card. Of course, Visa’s exclusivity also means if you want to use a credit card when you are there, it can only be a Visa.

And that’s the problem.

Not everyone that goes to the games realizes their AMEX, Mastercard or other competing card will be useless. Those without a Visa are forced to use often expensive exchange options and deal with all the hassles of working with foreign currency.

Rohit Barghava is blogging from Beijing and believes Visa’s exclusivity strategy is backfiring:

The end result is lots of negative experiences and consumer anger against Visa, including several people I spoke to who even said they would NOT get a new Visa card because of this tactic. The incremental sales and revenue for Visa cards at the Games may be good, but the word of mouth generated for Visa at the world’s largest sporting event is nearly all negative.

Given the above, do you believe Visa’s sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is responsible or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • chris says:

    On the one hand, visa gets a huge sales increment from being the only card available. they differentiated themselves from category leader (amex) in the past, because they could claim the only card accepted. exclusivity. they also probably get some new card owners, who’d seen the past years’ visa olympic sponsorship or did their proper travel research, and prepared accordingly for their trip to beijing.

    on the other, SOME people (not all) get upset they have to use a visa, for a variety of reasons. and most people just use cash or a traveler’s check.

    personally, i’d vote nice move for the visa marketing group. responsible, for their business problem.

  • While I definitely think that VISA had a good strategy (and I’m sure reaped the benefits of new card holders, good revenue, etc.), I think the fact that VISA was the only card accepted could have made some people mad.

    Travelers should have researched, but the truth is, it’s kind of assumed that credit cards are accepted in most places.

    I doubt that VISA will be crippled by this move and the subsequent negativity. However, they should think about a better pre-event education strategy before doing a sponsorship like this again. I don’t think it would be an issue, as long as people knew ahead of time what to expect. Maybe whenever people bought airline tickets or reserved a hotel during the time the Olympics was going on, they could have been told about VISA being the exclusive credit card accepted.

  • First, Visa’s risk is minor. Who gets upset? It’s people who do not use Visa and travel to Beijing for the Olympics.

    Frankly, all of this is minor. I think Visa/MasterCard have missed their real marketing strategy and it’s to market to small business about the disparity between their merchant services program and American Express’.

    I don’t know if this is legal, but if Visa/MasterCard provided an incentive to businesses who refused Amex (or limited themselves to V/MC), there could be a huge upside. Personally, I loathe Amex. I pay more to take the card and find Amex hard to do business with. Give me sufficient incentive and I would dump them… gladly!

    In short, the opportunity is not the consumer play, it’s the business acceptance play.

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