Visa Spends at Least a Third of Its Marketing Budget on Digital

CMO Kevin Burke describes digital efforts for the Sochi Olympics

Visa is one of the longest-running Olympics sponsors, with 27 years of support behind the games. This year, the marketer is ramping up its use of mobile and social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Tumblr and YouTube to connect with consumers and reinforce its new aspirational message, as embodied in the new tagline: “Everywhere you want to be.” Visa CMO Kevin Burke, who has overseen the development of three Olympics programs for the company, spoke with Adweek about why global sports is a good association for Visa and how its use of digital media is changing how Visa tells its brand story.

What are you doing differently at the Sochi Winter Games?

London 2012 was the tipping point. The games and brands were more social, mobile and digital than ever before, and now the bar is raised even higher. Mobile is at the heart of it for us in terms of delivering content and allowing consumers to engage with it everywhere. A lot of the things we’ve done for the Olympics are optimized around user experience.

How has that led to your development of new mobile and social apps?

Our brand positioning is built on the insight that everybody has a place they want to be and Visa can help them get there. It’s even more relevant with the proliferation of technology, mobile in particular. The concept of “everywhere” is almost infinite. Consumers connect with each other, with brands, anywhere, everywhere. In the case of our 360 Cam [an app that lets fans see video and images of what athletes are experiencing during training], it’s a compelling experience that inspires consumers to imagine their own everywhere and see what it’s like to be there with athletes.

What is it about sports that make it a great platform for Visa to connect with fans on devices?

An Olympics sponsorship helps us create foundational elements to support client marketing that helps drive their business. We know from research that it also increases the strength and vitality of our brand. We look to technology like mobile because consumers often use a mobile device as the window through which they do everything, so we try to create content that is designed for that environment.

How have you shifted your marketing budget toward digital and mobile?

Globally, we are well beyond 30-40 percent [of total spending levels], depending upon the market and the affinity any particular market has toward those channels. That’s a significant shift from where we were in the London 2012 Games or the Winter Games in Vancouver 2010. We’ve moved more dollars into those channels because we want to be where people consume content, and most of that is through digital. In some markets, like Korea, we are activating our digital sponsorship only through digital channels, whereas in other markets, like the U.S., we have many different channels.


What is it about Visa’s brand positioning that fits with highly popular global sports events?

When we look at sponsorship opportunities, we look at their brand values and ours because we like to see an intersection. Going back to the ’50’s, our founder, Dee Hock, talked about a universally accepted digital currency that helps consumers transact regardless of borders and boundaries. It was an ambitious vision but also one rooted in universality and inclusiveness. When we look at platforms like FIFA, American football and the Olympics, they appeal to a very broad audience. At the heart of our positioning is we are the best way to pay and be paid everywhere.