STARCOM, Chicago / VISA / 2019

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Why is this work relevant for Media?

Visa fundamentally flipped the script. Instead of picking an athlete likely to be celebrated at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we rallied around Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an outrageous star who wouldn’t be playing. Across digital, social and traditional media, we created a global “will he/won’t he play” rumor that demonstrated how you wouldn’t miss a moment of the tournament with Visa. Although he didn’t play a second, Zlatan ultimately became the first player on the pitch thanks to Visa’s exclusive access, which built brand salience, SOV and awareness of Visa’s payment technology that Zlatan used during his journey to Russia.


As an official 2018 FIFA World Cup sponsor and exclusive payment service in all stadiums where payment cards were accepted, Visa wanted to get the word out about how fans everywhere - at home, heading to and at the FIFA World Cup - wouldn’t miss out on the action. Visa sought to be positioned as the FOMO (fear of missing out) defeater.

With contactless payment solutions, Visa set out to demonstrate how fans could use their fast and easy ways to pay, so they wouldn’t have to miss a moment of the action through a singular global - yet locally modular - narrative. Given the nationalistic nature of the FIFA World Cup, finding a single athlete that represented all competing nations presented a challenge. We needed to find the right spokesperson who would tell our story for us - interview after interview, headline after headline, across paid and earned channels.

Describe the creative idea/insights

The World Cup is one of the only events capable of galvanizing fans to the point that they stop their normal lives. Missing a big moment during a match is a fan’s worst nightmare, causing devastating guilt over a seeming lack of dedication to your team. It’s one thing to miss out for a quick run to the loo. It’s far more frustrating to get stuck in a long concessions line waiting to pay when something big happens during the game. There must be a better way.

Visa set out to defeat FOMO by partnering with global football icon Zlatan, who at the time, had yet to reveal whether he planned to play for his home country. Would Zlatan play for Sweden in Russia? Would he sit out? With anticipation rising, we tapped into the hype surrounding Zlatan globally and brought him on as the singular face of Visa’s campaign.

Describe the strategy

Our strategy was to leverage global partners and drive consistent, scalable, disruptive and innovative approaches to connect with fans.

Through a rigorous data gathering and analysis approach, we knew Zlatan was the right athlete to join Team Visa with a large, global audience of Visa’s target. He is the second most decorated active footballer in the world, having won 32 trophies in his career, and boasts strong social stats within key markets, with 61 million followers and a high engagement rate and influencer score (72.6/100 DBI).

Visa wanted to defeat FOMO by providing exclusive, player-like access that no other sponsor could provide to World Cup fans, which included team changing rooms, wearable technology, the player tunnel and pitch. We targeted “Fanatics” with above-average knowledge beyond their own team, “Faithfuls” dedicated to their own club and “Fun Flag Flyers” who engage in public displays of support.

Describe the execution

Our star whipped up a storm by telling Jimmy Kimmel Live “I am going to the World Cup, yes.”– the assumption being that he would be coming out of retirement to play for Sweden. After which, an integrated campaign launched with TV commercials and social posts, followed by appearances on TV shows and online sports channels. We created a series of over 100 GIFs, digital vignettes, posts and video stories on Visa, Zlatan, and FIFA social channels, localized and amplified across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat in 57 countries. Along the way, Zlatan tapped to pay with Visa’s FOMO-defeating payment technology.

Zlatan was joined by a roster of influencers from across the globe, such as Kotaro Tokuda and Tatiana Vasilieva, promoting contactless payments through the FIFA FOMO lens to their social followings.

In Russia, Visa brought FOMO-busting contactless technology to stadiums to expedite transaction time for FIFA World Cup attendees.

List the results

Visa stood out as a top sponsor with the second highest SOV with over 1,600 article mentions/175MM impressions. Unaided awareness increased across key markets – UK +7ppts, Germany +6ppts, France +10ppts, US +5ppts, Mexico +6%, and Japan +7ppts.

We ranked #3 in Social SOV. Zlatan’s 16 social posts generated 39.9 million views, while Visa’s 10 influencers from across the globe shared over 225 pieces of content resulting in 11.2 million organic impressions, 24.9 million views, and an average engagement rate of 8.4%. Across digital, social and traditional media, we garnered over $10 million of earned and paid media value.

During the FIFA World Cup, contactless payments accounted for 45% of all Visa purchases in the 11 host cities, including Poland where 74% of Visa transactions used contactless technology. Additionally, Visa’s Contactless Payment ‘Intent to Use’ score improved significantly, especially in the EU – UK +10ppts, Germany +4ppts, and France +14ppts.

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