Now that the dust has settled on Euro 2000, sponsors are
considering the payback of investing in the event. My argument is that
in sponsorship, like in soccer, commitment is everything.
Why is MasterCard sponsoring sports events? Well, the positioning of
payment cards has changed over recent years. These days, we need to
focus on building emotional relationships with customers because often
the decision on which card to apply for, which one to take out of the
wallet, comes down to how people feel about the brand. MasterCard’s
long-running ’priceless’ campaign is about linking the practicality and
versatility of the brand to deeper, more human emotions.
Football is a fantastic vehicle to achieve this. It’s more than just the
most popular form of TV entertainment. It crosses generations, genders,
geographies and social classes. Everyone who will ever use a MasterCard
is a potential participant. More than that, it allows our brand to
become part of national pride, frenzy and excitement. In this way,
soccer can be the real ’glue’ of a brand’s marketing mix.
However, this association can’t be achieved by sponsoring one big
The key is consistent, related sponsorship. We are now involved in the
World Cup (sponsored since Italy 1990), the European Championships
(sponsored since Sweden 1992) and the UEFA Champions League (sponsored
Each event builds on our brand equity from year to year.
Sponsorship is about building association by emotion but one has to
invest extra in making this happen. Boards around the pitch are not
enough - they are only registered on a subliminal level. Paying to be
associated with the event logo is only the beginning. A sponsor buys a
ticket to an empty theatre stage and then has to put on a play. In our
case, that took the form of intense through-the-line activity. Through
this, we could maximise contact not only with a TV audience but with the
millions of visitors to the championship.
The result? One Dutch telephonic survey, Trefpunt, saw our prompted
brand awareness in the Netherlands jump to 74.6 per cent, way above
Philips, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
The association our sponsorship has established with FIFA and UEFA also
gives us great opportunities for the future. Because of its consistent
sponsorship, MasterCard is well positioned to make our card the payment
tool of choice for supporters buying tickets over the internet. One
example that speaks for itself: during autumn 1999, a first tier of
600,000 Euro 2000 tickets was sold on the internet, primarily to Belgian
and Dutch fans. More than 40 per cent used MasterCard for the
There are things that you can’t really measure. We are told we all waste
50 per cent of our advertising budget. Well, a branding exercise in
sponsorship is like that too. However, we must not forget that events
such as Euro 2000 generate unequalled passion among fans, both at the
events and through the media.
That is the exciting intangible that we are buying into.
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.