Shifting budgets from advertising to sponsorship

At Cannes this year, Mastercard’s CMO Raja Rajamannar announced that “advertising is not the way going forward” because "consumers hate interruption". Instead he’s been moving budgets to sponsorship and experiential under the “Priceless” banner to curate experiences for its customers. This includes dining, theatre, shopping and sports.

From our conversations with various members of the marketing team, we know Mastercard regularly reassesses its sponsorship portfolio and considers new opportunities that might offer added consumer engagement. So where might it be exploring in 2019?

Women’s sport: Visa’s new seven year deal with UEFA to sponsor women’s football lays their claim to this rapidly growing and to date under-invested space in global sport. Mastercard started running activation around women’s football in 2017 and renewed global rights to The Champions League and UEFA Super Cup in February so we think it will be looking to counter the bold moves by its no. 1 competitor.

esports: In September Mastercard signed a deal with Riot games to be the first global sponsor of League of Legends (LoL), one of the most popular eSports. Then in October it created an immersive pop-up experiential venue called The Mastercard Nexus in Seoul, South Korea, bringing the eSports community together ahead of the LoL 2018 World Championship. These deals signal a shift towards a slightly younger demographic, in line with its aim of building a “cashless society”.

Broad appeal: Because of its large target demographic, it needs to maintain investment in huge global properties with mass appeal. It also needs to ensure properties - or the activation of properties – isn’t divisive, so sponsoring a single team tends to be avoided. Properties might also want to consider how you can repair damage to its reputation from the backlash around its World Cup children's meals campaign.

Ambassadors: Approached on a case-by-case basis although the goal is to partner with individuals participating in large sporting events. For example the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, where it is sponsoring Michael Leitch, the captain of Japan and The PGA Tour, where ambassadors include: Annika Sorenstam, Justin Rose and Curtis Strange.

Target audience: Broad 25-55 year-old customer base although certain initiatives such as its Digital Wallet offering skew slightly younger at 18 25 year-olds.

Tech creds: Recent investments have seen Mastercard position as a ‘technology company’ as opposed to one in financial services, so driving awareness of latest innovations is key. This comes alongside the introduction of biometric identification by April 2019 so all consumers can identify themselves using fingerprints or facial recognition when they shop and pay with Mastercard.

Media Spend Q1-3 2018: £146,385 (2017 £1.7m predominantly in Q4)

Partnerships: Music – The Grammys, The Brit Awards and various music festivals. Sport –long-term relationship in place with UEFA through to 2020-21, as well as The Open, Goodwood and MLB teams Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Food – the New York City Wine & Food Festival, a number of chefs and restaurants globally.

Key decision-makers:

VP Area Marketing & Communications, UK, Ireland, Nordics & Baltics Nicola Histonconnect

Head of Brand, Sponsorship, Digital & Music Shaun Springer connect