Anatomy of an Ad: MasterCard's Priceless Soccer Surprise

After Thousands of 'Priceless Surprises,' Ad Age Captured MasterCard's Most Ambitious Yet

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"If you ruin this for me, I'll fucking kill you," Olli Waldhauer, a director with The Dons, warned as I climbed into the front seat of the van.

While trying to shoot the final scene of one of the most complex Priceless Surprises MasterCard had ever pulled off, Mr. Waldhauer, along with team members from MasterCard, McCann Bucharest and Octagon, had run into a potentially idea-killing roadblock.

There were only four hours until the Champion's League Final was set to kick off and the police had reneged on their promise to grant them entrance into the grounds of Olympia Stadium.

"The Champion's League is by far MasterCard's largest sponsorship, and most important sponsorship," Raja Rajamannar, CMO of MasterCard said. "It's critical."

While the Super Bowl garnered 114.4 million U.S. viewers in 2015, according to Nielsen, it is dwarfed by the 180 million people who tuned into this year's Union of European Football Associations Champion's League final between Juventus and Barcelona.

The experiential Surprises campaign grew out of MasterCard's 17-year-old Priceless effort with the tagline: "For everything else, there's MasterCard." The goal is to create a positive an emotional bond between the company and its users while showing the unlimited possibilities that comes with owning a MasterCard.

Mr. Rajamannar said MasterCard has pulled off more than 200,000 Priceless Surprises of various sizes and scope with varying degrees of success. But none have been more ambitious than the one it attempted minutes before the start of this year's Champion's League final, which took place in Berlin on June 6. The stunt involved a newlywed soccer fanatic, his best friend, retired German soccer star Michael Ballack disguised as a cab driver -- and one logistical obstacle after another.

And Ad Age was there to capture it all. Check out our latest Anatomy of an Ad above, then the finished product below.