SBJ/January 26 - February 1, 2004/Marketingsponsorship

MasterCard continues local push

A recent MasterCard ad had NFL star Brett Favre but no NFL marks.

While Visa was negotiating a renewal of its NFL sponsorship pact, sans team rights, MasterCard has been deftly scooping up team deals since last summer. To date, MasterCard has signed long-term agreements or letters of intent from 16 NFL clubs, including some of the league's largest markets.

The Houston Texans, hosts of Super Bowl XXXVIII, are the latest to commit to a MasterCard marketing deal.

The current Visa deal, which expires at the end of March, gave it complete team and club exclusivity. So MasterCard started signing deals with clubs, knowing it could advertise locally but not in direct association with NFL team intellectual property.

NFL teams
Green Bay
Kansas City
New England
New York Giants
St. Louis
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research
However, each deal contained a clause promising that if local marketing rights reverted to teams — as they have as many of the NFL's biggest renewals have come up — the teams were bound to MasterCard. Reading the political tea leaves adroitly, MasterCard also took care to align with some of the most influential owners, like Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, Wayne Huizenga, Wayne Weaver and Robert Kraft, by signing sponsorships with their teams.

As part of the ongoing negotiations to renew the NFL Trust that binds the league and its clubs, discussions continue about teams expanding marketing areas from their 75-mile radius. That means MasterCard will be able to market its services to a larger area using team names and logos.

How much larger? Since MasterCard has teams with national appeal like Green Bay and Dallas under contract, that is an intriguing question.

"We don't think it will ever get to a point where, for example, we can leverage the Dallas Cowboys on a national level," said a MasterCard marketer, who requested anonymity, "but we have every intention of leveraging this as a national property."

The marketer offered the recent Brett Favre "Priceless" ad, which did not use NFL marks, as an example.

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