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Coming off another year of losing share to rival Visa USA, MasterCard International is trying to inflate its profile with a sweepstakes and TV spots tied to the World Cup soccer tournament this summer.

The program is part of MasterCard's effort to overcome the marketing setbacks it faced last year, when it went six months without an agency. With its new TV campaign from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, the No. 2 card marketer is confident 1998 will be a better year.


"We have a lot of momentum going with us right now," said Nick Utton, senior VP-U.S. marketing. "We will be successful in share growth and we're building the brand."

The World Cup, this year to be played in France, is unlikely to garner the same U.S. attention as the 1994 contest, held in the U.S. But soccer's growing popularity makes the tournament a solid property in the U.S., Mr. Utton said.

MasterCard plans to break at least one soccer-theme TV spot two weeks before the matches begin, he said. The spot will be in the same vein as McCann's other ads for the brand, themed "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard."

The first commercial will feature a kid soccer player.

Soccer great Pele also may appear in ads, Mr. Utton said.

Through July, MasterCard will be running a sweepstakes giving away trips to France.


MasterCard represented 25.2% of all credit purchases in 1997, compared to 25.6% in 1996, according to Nilson Report, an industry newsletter. Visa boosted its share to 49.6% from 48.9%; American Express Co. nudged up to 18.45% from 18.31%.

MasterCard boosted ad spending 10.3% last year, to $109.3 million. But more than a third of that came in the fourth quarter, according to Competitive Media Reporting, after McCann was brought on board.

Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, resigned the account last March after MasterCard called a review.

Visa spent $242 million during 1997, up 10.2%, according to CMR. American Express boosted spending 19.4% to $195.9 million.

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