Adrian Farina, Head of Marketing - Europe at Visa
Adrian Farina
Head of Marketing - Europe Visa logo

An Inside Look at Visa’s Game-changing Partnerships With Women’s Football

Adrian Farina has had a globally-diverse career, working throughout most of South America for P&G before heading to the U.S. to work agency side for brands like Walmart, Nestle and Diageo. Now, as Head of Marketing for Visa in Europe, Adrian helped to solidify Visa's position as a premier partner for the FIFA Women's World Cup – with this year marking many sponsorship firsts, plus a 7-year deal as the first sole sponsor of UEFA’s Women’s Football.

You recently helped lead Visa's partnership with FIFA Women's World Cup. What was something new and exciting as part of that partnership?

This year, Visa became the first brand partner of the Player of the Match award to celebrate women soccer players from around the world. Fans worldwide had the opportunity to choose their favorite player for each of the 52 tournament matches. After each game, the Visa Player of the Match trophy was awarded in a special ceremony that included visionary women presenting the awards – including U.S. Olympic Fencing team member Ibtihaj Muhammad, Nigerian Olympic Bobsled team member Dr. Seun Adigun and Nobel Prize Laureate and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gobwee. It was important to us that we were able to create a meaningful ceremony experience by honoring and connecting women who are inspiring others through their actions on and off the field.

Megan Rapinoe of the USA poses with her VISA Player of the Match Award following the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match. (Photo by Cathrin Mueller - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Any ah-ha moments you can share from working on this initiative? 

The importance of being authentic and committed for the long run. Many brands saw this World Cup as a tactical opportunistic move. For Visa, women’s football is a long-term, strategic partnership.

So what's next for Visa and Women's Football?

"As a brand...we can use our platform to promote equality that has powerful implications that extend beyond sports."

We’ve signed a 7-year agreement to become the first sponsor of UEFA’s women’s football. And we already are in full planning mode for the activation of the 2019/20 UEFA Women’s Champions League and women’s football events in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, while laying the foundations for UEFA Women’s EURO 2021. We also entered a partnership with the US Soccer Federation to sponsor the women’s and men’s national teams through 2023. We want to be a part of the continued development of football around the globe for men and women equally. As a brand and sponsor, we can use our platform to promote equality that has powerful implications that extend beyond sports.

Visa has a number of other initiatives geared towards supporting women beyond athletes. How does that fit within Visa's overall strategy as a brand?

Women’s empowerment is core to our beliefs and DNA as a company. The latest edition of the Visa Everywhere Initiative, a global innovation program that tasks start-ups to solve payment challenges of tomorrow, focused on women-led businesses and startups from around the world. In the U.S., we run an initiative called “She’s Next” which also supports women-led businesses and female founders. These and many other initiatives are a core element of our brand identity and support our vision of inclusion, or using the words in our company mission: “...for everyone, everywhere.”

You've worked both in-house and agency side throughout your career. Tell us about the path leading you to Visa. 

After ten years with P&G, I moved over to the agency side for four years and led Saatchi & Saatchi’s shopper marketing business for Latin America out of Miami. In 2012, I joined Visa to lead marketing for Latin America and in 2017, moved to London to lead marketing for Europe. Now at Visa, I have been increasingly focused on sponsorship marketing and using our marketing platforms to give back to the economies where we operate. Although I have bounced from in-house to agency back to an in-house marketing role, the common thread has been building top international brands while working to understand consumer behavior.

What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how will it impact the future?

I am fascinated by the changing dynamic in the media and content landscape, and how consumers are starting to recognize that “free” services come with a price tag – perhaps your data becomes a currency you are not entirely comfortable with, quality content subsists on little funding, or fake news becomes so pervasive that you no longer know what to trust.

Because of this shift, brands are increasingly concerned about authenticity and the actual quality of the reach promised by a digital/social media platform. These still embryonic shifts in perception combined with emerging regulation will, in my view, gradually re-shape the media and content landscape providing brands with better, more measurable options for delivering authentic and higher-quality content.

How do you pick and develop the talent on your team?

"...curiosity is the single most important skill for a marketer today."

I make a point of meeting every person that will join the European Marketing Team at Visa, even if it’s for 20 minutes once they have gone through the interviewing panel. I look for strong marketing fundamentals (it’s shocking to see how many people are forgetting about the basics!), diversity of background and experiences (cultural, academic, socioeconomic) and above all, curiosity. It is my belief that curiosity is the single most important skill for a marketer today.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The 5 Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?

Lovemarks, by Kevin Roberts.

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