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SBD Global/February 20, 2014/Olympics

Visa's Congratulatory Ads From Sochi Generate 14 Million Interactions

Visa caught everyone’s attention in '08 when it aired a congratulatory ad for Michael Phelps the moment after he won his eighth Gold Medal at the Beijing Games. The immediacy of it generated talk among viewers and fellow sponsors. In Sochi, Visa has taken the concept of congratulating Olympians and digitized it. The company has a team spread across offices in Sochi, N.Y. and San Francisco working to create congratulatory graphics and videos that it’s posting on Twitter, Facebook and Vine. The group in Sochi includes some of the graphics people from Visa’s creative agency BBDO. They track events, make an image, send it to staff in New York for approval and then post it to Twitter. It has done 20 celebratory posts for 12 athletes since the Games began. The posts collectively have garnered 14 million worldwide interactions -- likes, retweets and other engagements.

GETTING ATTENTION: A graphic featuring Korean Olympian Lee Sang-hwa received 45,000 likes on Facebook; a Japan-signed Sara Takanashi image was one of the top-tweeted images in the country, with 4,425 retweets and 3,257 favorites; and a ski-jumping Vine video that the Visa team made was viewed more than 500,000 times. It is the first time Visa has had a digital team devoted to developing content during the Games. For London, it developed most of its digital content before the Games began. Visa Sr. VP, Global Sponsorship Marketing Ricardo Fort said, “Our interaction was not as great (for London) as it is now. If this is a 100, London was a 30 in terms of interaction.” Fort said that Visa didn’t consider social media a valuable brand-building tool at past Olympics. For Sochi, though, that’s where it concentrated its efforts and energy. He said it allows the brand to reach consumers and add to their enjoyment of the Games, which bolsters their appreciation of Visa.

INSTANT GRATIFICATION: Shortly after the U.S. ski slopestyle team swept the podium, Visa posted an image that said “Star-Spangled Sweep” above three raised U.S. flags. The Visa logo is in the bottom corner. The image was retweeted more than 3,600 times. (To access the Twitter page: Fort said, “When things happen, we’ve been fast to react. What’s surprised me is I see a lot of what looks like pre-written content (from other sponsors and athletes). We’ve done a pretty good job of understanding what happens, and if the athlete wins or loses or country wins or loses, we are there with them.” Fort said the value of having a digital operation in Sochi was most evident the first week of the Games. More than 20 Japanese Visa customers who won trips to the Olympics weren’t able to leave Japan because of a snowstorm. They arrived on day three of a four-day trip. Takanashi signed a photo for them and Visa’s digital team got a picture of her doing the signing. It tweeted the image out, and it became one of the top-tweeted items in the country. Fort said, "It was authentic. It gave soul and heart to what’s happening here. These 20 Japanese guests will go back and tell everyone what happened, and the post amplifies what we do.”
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