When sponsorship threatens an event's legacy
I don’t know if you tried to buy Olympic tickets and congratulations if you were successful, but not being able to use anything other than VISA was a bit of a pain as I only have MasterCard. Now, I understand that VISA pay a huge sum and want to get as much Advertising and PR coverage as possible, but I found this rather petulant. I have just heard that they have now taken this one almighty step further and are really now trying to inconvenience people.
I always known and accepted that if McDonalds or Coke sponsor an event then that’s what you will be able to buy inside the stadium. Fair enough. I don’t like the idea that you can’t take your bottle of non sponsored water inside or your home made ham sandwich, but that’s been going on at football grounds and other concert and event stadiums for quite a while and again it’s fairly acceptable. But VISA has now gone too far.
VISA is arranging for 27 ATMs at various Olympic sites to be turned off and installing eight new VISA only machines so the only cash available at Wembley, Wimbledon, Old Trafford, St James' Park, Excel, Earl's Court etc will be on a VISA card. Last time I checked cash still had the queens head on it and not “sponsored by VISA”.
What if someone has an emergency? Sorry, wrong card is the VISA answer. So you can’t buy anything with a MasterCard or get cash at the stadiums. Visa said that visitors could bring cash with them – given that everything will be expensive and you can’t take any F&B with you, then you had better travel with a shed load of cash on the overcrowded underground late in the evening. Isn’t this beaching some sort of duty of care?
So VISA have decided to control money, and somewhere someone in LOCOG has accepted VISA's “pieces of silver” (with the Queens head on”) and said “yes, you can treat the public anyway you like”. And where does it end? – Soon you won’t be allowed in the stadium with the wrong type of jeans, and if that sounds ridiculous, just wait for the ban on Adidas or Nike logo tops when the other is the sponsor.
The whole point of being a sponsor, other than corporate ego, is to hopefully increase your brand's image by associating it with something that captures people’s attention and leaves an enduring legacy that you will be able to capitalise on. How can denying people access to their own money create a positive legacy for VISA? At least McDonalds and Coke are exposing their brand to people and making them try it – VISA are actually denying people that opportunity.
What do they expect us to do?, change banks, get yet another credit card, or even worse for an organisation that makes its income from supplying not only cards but merchant services to retailers, carry cash. Of all the ingenious marketing techniques, driving people away from your product has never been top of the list! Well done VISA – some legacy!
Nigel Cooper, executive director, P&MM Events & Communications www.p-mm.co.uk