On its silver anniversary as Olympic sponsor, Visa looks for a golden 2012

 
Marc Sidwell
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COUNTDOWN TO THE LONDON 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES

184 DAYS TO GO

Visa Europe’s Colin Grannell explains the three ingredients for the perfect Olympic brand association

Q. WHAT WAS YOUR BRAND’S PRIMARY REASON FOR BEING INVOLVED WITH THE GAMES?

A. We’ve just celebrated our silver jubilee as a top, worldwide Olympic Games sponsor; London will be our fourteenth Olympic Games and our sixth Paralympic Games. For pretty much the last 25 years it’s been the thing we do from a marketing point of view. Visa was the very first global sponsor to include 2012 in its sponsorship programme, before we knew where it was going to be. But we were delighted it came to London – we had a big cheer in this building – because this is where our headquarters are for Visa Europe and it’s also quite a unique business market for us too because we’ve spent a long time building up an infrastructure here that accepts electronic payments, a lot of time getting consumers happy to use plastic cards to make payments. We’ve always used the Games to introduce new ideas wherever we can, and if ever there’s a market where we were most comfortable with innovation, it’s here, because of that history.

There are two primary reasons why we sponsor the Olympic Games. One is because it really is global. Visa operates in more than two hundred markets. More than 200 nations will turn up to London this summer to participate. When we are looking for marketing activities, we have every country and every demographic in every country to try to support, so we’re looking for global properties that have that breadth and depth for content. If you’re living in France then the Olympic team is the French Olympic team. If you’re living in Italy or the US or Australia it’s the same there too. So we have this fantastic iconic global property that we can slice and dice so that it makes it relevant locally to whatever market you’re in. And then we package it with a unique look, tone and feel which enables us to then market it globally. So that’s the first reason, the size and the scale fits very well with the global footprint that we have.

The second aspect is this opportunity to showcase innovation and London is unique in that regard. The previous hosts of the summer Games have been emerging or growth markets for us. London is very much a mature market with lots of point of sale devices and millions of people who have got Visa cards. And that very infrastructure allows us to be able to do things that we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise do.

Q. HOW DID YOU STRUCTURE THE CASE FOR BOARD APPROVAL?

A. Of course the Games are not always in Europe, but we still feel that the power and the magnetism the Games generate is highly valued, wherever they are – to our consumers it’s about their local team. So with the board we make sure they are looking at it holistically, across Europe, but we make sure that they understand what we’re doing with them with their customers and their marketplace in those countries. And it has to work. If it doesn’t work, well then we do something else. It’s a business, this is the business of the Games that we’re talking about here.

Q. HOW HAVE YOU STRUCTURED YOUR BUSINESS TO MAXIMISE OLYMPIC OPPORTUNITIES?

A. There are no options here. If you want to advertise or any communications, promotions, launches, staff activities – whatever we do, we’ll have this Olympic Games stamp on it. We don’t give anybody an option – you can do Olympics or you can not do Olympics. It’s what we do.

Q. WHAT ARE THE MOST CRUCIAL COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES IN THE GAMES FOR YOU?

A. There’s not much point in being a sponsor of the Olympic Games unless the consumers and stakeholders know that you are. There are three things everyone wants to see for London: for it to be the best Games ever; to see their team win; and to be there in person. Visa helps make the flowing infrastructure that is a big ingredient of best Games ever; Visa makes a big contribution to my team wins because of our sponsorship of teams, including the whole of Team 2012 in the UK, and, as a top sponsor, of those countries that otherwise couldn’t afford to be there; as for being there – we’ll bring literally thousands to the Games with our global promotions. You get those three right and people think positively about Visa when they come next to buy something.

Q. what has surprised you most about your involvement to date?

A. I think when you look at the cycle a host market goes through – euphoria and then despair and then more euphoria and then more despair, London has followed that blueprint almost exactly from what we’d expect. So all of that hasn’t surprised me at all. I think everybody will be surprised just how big this is: 40,000 journalists, 10.8m spectators, 5bn viewer hours, each watching it 6-7 hours – it’s huge. Try running 27 world championships simultaneously over two weeks or so. I think once it happens, everyone’s going to be blown away. It’s going to be fantastic.

Colin Grannell is the head of partnership marketing for Visa Europe.