VISA SACKS AMEX WITH $50M DEAL FOR NFL SPONSORSHIP

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The National Football League no longer takes American Express.

Visa USA last week closed a five-year deal, estimated at $50 million, to replace AmEx as the league's exclusive payment card sponsor.

Visa is charging for omnipresence in the sports marketing arena. The credit card marketer is also talking with the National Basketball Association, which currently doesn't have a credit card sponsor.

"We have had conversations with the NFL," said Marcos Rada, director of communications, American Express Travel Related Services Co. "They have chosen to go with Visa and so be it."

The NFL opted for Visa over AmEx because of the breadth and depth of Visa's card base and merchant acceptance, according to those familiar with negotiations.

Visa, the world's top consumer payment system with 390 million cards in circulation, cited the estimated 80 million people in the U.S. who watch NFL games each week for doing the deal.

Carl Pascarella, president of Visa USA, said negotiations did not wrap up until late on April 6. "The marriage of the two brands for an exclusive five-year deal is very important to us," he said.

The credit card giant and member bank MBNA America Bank Corp. will pay $50 million in rights fees over the next five years, making this the second-biggest sponsorship deal in NFL history behind Coca Cola Co.'s $60 million deal. The deal doesn't include media time on the NFL's five national TV carriers.

Visa will receive exclusive rights to use logos, names, and colors of the NFL and its member clubs in ads and promotion.

MBNA will also market co-branded credit cards that will bear the NFL logo and marques of each team. Visa also will create other NFL-theme products, including debit cards.

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