Visa’s Olympic ‘World’ Goes Global

Visa has taken its “Go world” Olympics campaign celebrating the Olympic spirit global this week, with spots running in the U.S., Canada, China, Russia and Japan. (Agencies TBWA\Chiat\Day, AKQA and GMR collaborated on the effort.) It’s a continuation of last year’s U.S.-only campaign — which promoted the 2008 Beijing Olympics — but this time around, Visa is taking a more ambitious approach.

The credit card company is using a bigger lineup of Olympic athletes and hopefuls on digital and mobile media to get the word out, and it’s also teamed up with various merchants and business partners to promote the Visa brand. The company had a successful fourth quarter, with profits up $514 million, compared to $356 million for the same period last year. Kevin Burke, who oversees Visa’s global consumer marketing, said he hopes the campaign will increase the usage of Visa cards. Burke spoke with Brandweek about why Visa took its campaign global, and what outcome the company is expecting.

Brandweek: Why is Visa taking its “Go world” campaign global?

Kevin Burke: This is our first global campaign for the Olympics. In the past, we certainly activated it in different parts of the world, but we didn’t do it as one global company — Visa Inc.

The campaign itself really celebrates athletics and human triumph through these unique athletes’ stories, and it’s all in an effort to bring the fans closer to the participating athletes during the Olympic Games. What it does for us as a facilitator is . . . it allows consumers to experience the wonders of the Olympics and to see Visa as a brand that in fact helps to support the Olympic movement. That resonates very nicely with consumers and again, when you layer in the acceptance story as well, consumers see us as a preferred and [widely accepted] form of payment.

[With this year’s campaign,] the consumer will experience Visa’s Olympic activation whether they’re in Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea, China or Latin America. They’ll have similar experiences in terms of the broad message that we’re delivering . . . but we’re customizing that communication in each market to make it more relevant. One way we’re doing that is by featuring athletes that are hometown athletes from these countries, so [the creative] will tell unique stories about how they’re all Olympic hopefuls and it’ll really celebrate them and their Olympic spirit.

What’s different about this year’s campaign?

It’s definitely a multi-channel campaign. We’re using social media much more so than we did in previous efforts. Digital and mobile are playing a stronger role as well, and the on-site experience for consumers [has been enhanced]. We also have some additional partners [such as Finish Line, National Car Rental and the Hilton family of hotels in New York City] that are working with us on activating this. We are featuring some of these merchant partners and clients in different parts of the world to drive home this message of the Olympics, to celebrate the Olympic spirit and how that’s moving the world forward.

What results did you see with the “Go world” campaign — which ran in the U.S. — last year?

In the “Go world” campaign, which we used in the U.S. for the Beijing Olympics last year, what we found — and what we know from our activation efforts at the Olympics in the past — is a higher level of brand performance, an increase in the strength of our brand. We also find that it’s a perfect platform to feature some of our products, like debit cards, and/or some of our premium products, and it’s also a very wonderful way to magnify one of the core pillars of our brand. In this case, it’s actually the only card accepted at the Olympic Games. It’s something that we find is very relevant to consumers.

Are you featuring more athletes than you did last year?

We definitely have more athletes featured and we’re not only celebrating the current Team Visa athletes. They play a very central role in our overall communication, but we’re also celebrating some legendary Olympic athletes as well. Some of the Team Visa athletes, the hopefuls, that we’re featuring in the U.S. include Julia Mancuso (alpine skiing), Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboard, snowboard cross), Alexi Salamone, a fabulous ice sledge hockey player. One of the things that’s really cool is the creative platform allows each of the markets to select the athlete that’s most meaningful and relevant to that particular market.

What’s the overall sentiment/theme of the campaign?

The creative platform is about how the world comes together to compete at the Olympics and it’s really about encouraging people to go and realize the potential they have hidden inside them.

How’s the economy affected the Visa brand?

If you look at what we’ve recently provided in terms of financial results, Visa usage and transactions are stronger. Our brand health is very strong and has been, and we think that work like this campaign will continue to reinforce what consumers see in the Visa brand, which is a universally accepted payment [form] that is convenient and widely accepted. As a marketing campaign, this is about helping to raise that awareness with consumers so they understand why Visa is in fact a better way to pay.