SBJ/July 23-29, 2012/In Depth

Event puts the spotlight on Visa Europe

Instead of being greeted at Heathrow by gold-tinged images of Michael Phelps above the words “Go World,” people arriving at the airport will see blue posters featuring Usain Bolt and the words “Life flows faster with Visa.”
Welcome to Visa Europe.

When international banks decided to take Visa public in 2006, banks in Europe decided to keep Visa’s European division independent. Visa Inc., the publicly traded company in 200 markets, and Visa Europe, the private company in 36 European markets, became separate entities.

Though they’re independent of each other, they still share the Olympic sponsorship and operate under a basic gentleman’s agreement: When a Games is held in a Visa Inc. territory, Visa Inc. dictates the on-site marketing materials; when a Games is in Europe, Visa Europe dictates it.

Visa Europe uses a taxi wrap to promote a system for processing credit cards.
Photo by: Newscom
“We’re separate companies but it’s one brilliant, intergalactic brand,” said Colin Grannell, Visa Europe’s head of partnership marketing. “When we come together, we both passionately believe that Visa stands for global, trust, reliability and speed.”

Visa Europe and Visa Inc. began working together years ago to determine how they would approach the London Olympics. They have collaborated on everything from the bus wraps that will be seen around the city to the installation of the credit card machines at 34 Olympic venues.

The biggest difference between the companies is their marketing message. While “Go World” is being used by Visa Inc. in 70-plus markets worldwide, Visa Europe is using the slogan “Life flows faster with Visa.”

The European company is promoting a new technology that processes credit cards without requiring them to be swiped, and it developed a commercial featuring Bolt that showcases the contactless cards’ speed. The company also signed 21 athletes of its own.

Visa Europe and Visa Inc. worked together to determine how the company would brand areas of the Olympic superstore and point-of-sale spots in venues. The result is a blue backdrop that showcases athletes from both companies’ portfolios. It doesn’t include either the “Go World” or “Life flows faster” slogan. Instead, it says “We are proud to accept only Visa.”

The fact that the Games are taking place in a European market changed the way Visa Inc. approached them, but it didn’t undermine either companies’ efforts on the ground, said Ricardo Fort, Visa Inc. head of sponsorship marketing.
“The feeling is it’s one team working together,” Fort said.

For most people on the ground, that’s exactly what it will look like.

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