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In summer '94, Mava Heffler found herself in a position few would envy: Promoting MasterCard International's corporate sponsorship of World Cup soccer, a sport that gives U.S. viewers few kicks.

MasterCard was one of 11 corporate sponsors to the events, paying an estimated $15 million to $20 million, the biggest sponsorship ever undertaken by the company. But the prospect didn't dissuade Ms. Heffler, 41, VP-director of U.S. promotion for MasterCard.

"In event sponsorship, two things matter," she says. "What you have and what you do with it."

What she did was hammer home the MasterCard brand-with soccer great Pele as spokesman-through a wide range of traditional media advertising, integrated marketing and promotion. The package included two TV spots from Ammirati & Puris/Lintas available to member banks, sweepstakes for cardholders and retailers and point-of-purchase displays.

MasterCard perimeter signage at the event alone generated exposure averaging 8 minutes and 16 seconds per game over the 52 matches. That's estimated to have a commercial value of $49 million.

"It really brought the company together across all departments, and globally gave us a central image to build around," says Ms. Heffler.

In the U.S., more than 450 member institutions leveraged the sponsorship to support local marketing initiatives, and Ms. Heffler estimates MasterCard, along with its member banks and financial institutions, spent $75 million on advertising.

In one visible proof of the program's overall effectiveness, MasterCard issued 1 million new affinity cards bearing either the image of Pele or World Cup '94 art.

For MasterCard, the final score was even more impressive than imagined. "I absolutely believe that everything ended up being bigger and more exciting than people originally thought," says Ms. Heffler.

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