Visa's biggest-ever NFL push gets $50 mil budget

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Visa USA is kicking off its largest NFL promotion, an estimated $50 million integrated marketing effort.

The credit-card provider last night launched the first component of its multipronged National Football League sponsorship, with a quirky TV spot from BBDO Worldwide, New York. The commercial, one of three TV executions, joins print, radio and online advertising as well as promotions in the marketing huddle.

This is the fifth year of Visa's NFL sponsorship and the marketer is throwing more money behind this effort than ever before. The $50 million budget represents about one-sixth of Visa's annual U.S. spending.


"This is by far the most aggressive campaign we've launched behind the National Football League sponsorship,'' said VP-Advertising Matt Biespiel. "Over the last four years, we've seen gains in how NFL fans rate Visa and how they perceive it as the best brand and the most widely accepted card in the category.''

Visa leads the U.S. credit-card market in dollar volume, with a 53% share of the $1.16 trillion category.

As for the new push, this year's ads highlight overzealous fans instead of focusing on football players as Visa's NFL advertising did in the past. One spot features a pregnant woman scouring a paint store for the prefect orange tint. But the paint is not for her soon-to-be born child's room; instead, it's used side by side with blue stain to create the ideal Denver Bronco's face paint.

A second spot shows an elderly woman buying a welcome-to-the-neighborhood cake for her town's newcomers--the Cleveland Browns.


Although BBDO has been Visa's agency since 1985, it had to win the right to handle this integrated marketing assignment. The agency worked with sister shops to best a group of agencies led by USWeb/CKS, Cupertino, Calif., and Highway One Communications, San Francisco, to land the business.

Mr. Biespiel said BBDO impressed Visa with a simple idea that tweaked its long-running, BBDO-created tagline, "It's everywhere you want to be.''

BBDO pitched the theme, "It's everywhere NFL fans want to be.'' The agency took the concept one step further by creating promotions that will take football fans where they want to be: with NFL players. That contest, "Once in a Lifetime NFL Fantasy'' launches Sept. 1.

Prizes range from participation in a Super Bowl halftime show to playing flag football with NFL players. BBDO also created a supporting TV spot for the contest. That ad features Minnesota Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham and head coach Dennis Green, who get confused as a fan calls plays from the sideline.

Executives at Visa--which also sponsors the Olympics, Nascar racing and the Triple Crown series of horse races--examined the possibility of Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association sponsorships, but decided to pass.


"The NFL is really the nation's No. 1 spectator sport,'' said Mr. Biespiel. "We decided to leverage that to move Visa's volume and build Visa's images. All of our research and investigations said the NFL was the best property to be associated with.''

BBDO Exec VP-Managing Director Richard Kronengold added that choosing sponsorships can be a tough call.

"Anyone can sign up and pay a sponsorship fee to associate themselves with an event,'' he said. "But the foundation of an idea is where the meat is. That's when you become a marketer. We're not there to support the NFL, we're using the NFL to leverage Visa.''

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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