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A million cheers: How PV Sindhu’s bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics delivered a victory for Visa

The digital payment company launched ‘A Million Cheers’ campaign with the aim of getting cheers for Sindhu prior to the Games. Aimed at encouraging fans to cheer for India’s medal hope, Visa’s social media challenge ‘Tap the Shuttle’ received a great response from fans

Ace shuttler PV Sindhu’s bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics hasn’t only delivered big for India but also for the global card payment brand Visa. 

The company had run a full-fledged social media campaign for PV Sindhu to garner support for her. 

The company doesn’t sign up sports personalities as brand ambassadors but its Team Visa global athlete support programme assists sportspersons who aspire to reach the Olympics and Paralympic podiums. It has championed more than 500 sportspersons ever since it was founded in 2000. Through this initiative, athletes become part of a shared community and connect with each other across countries.

While the brand has been associated with the Olympics since 1986, it had never actually signed a sportsperson as a Team Visa athlete in India. Visa signed Sindhu in 2019 for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

The company launched its ‘A Million Cheers’ campaign with the aim to get cheers for Sindhu.

‘A Million Cheers’:

Aimed at encouraging fans to cheer for India’s medal hope, Visa’s social media challenge ‘Tap the Shuttle’ has also received a great response from fans. The campaign featured renowned personalities such as footballer Sunil Chhetri, cricketers Jemimah Rodrigues and Mohammed Siraj, shooter Gagan Narang, and Bollywood actress Huma Qureshi – who have participated in ‘Tap the Shuttle’ and encouraged fans to cheer for Sindhu.

Sujatha V Kumar

Talking about its media strategy, Sujatha V Kumar, Head of Marketing, India and South Asia, Visa, said, “Keeping in mind the challenges of the media landscape, we leveraged a mix of traditional media and digital. We did a lot of TV and a lot of digital platforms such as YouTube, OTT, social media, and influencer marketing too, to drive the campaign. So in TV, YouTube, and OTT, our target was to promote the assets on more than 70 TV channels, and reach over 700 million Indians in the first 60 days of the campaign through a very high-visibility media activity. Launched on July 3, it has already crossed the five-million mark.”

In general, Kumar said the brand does a mix of traditional and social and digital marketing. And the split is largely around 50:50 in between traditional and digital. But for some campaigns, including for the Olympics, when it aims to reach all of the country, there's a lot of investment around traditional media (TV advertising).

The brand drives two major initiatives around the agenda of cashless: contactless in face to face payments and online payments in e-commerce, and the pandemic has spurred it in the country. Through the cashless confidence campaign with Sindhu, it is driving the drive.

With sports as an integral part of its marketing strategy, Visa has maintained a long-standing partnership with the Olympics and the Paralympic games since 1986. In terms of the mediums, the brand has an equal split between traditional and digital.

However, for the Tokyo Olympics this year, it is betting higher on television.

Shedding light on its relationship with Olympics, she said, “The reason for associating with the Olympics is there're a lot of shared values, because we really see sports as a uniting factor across the world. And if you see Visa payments, we're also available in all countries across the world. Our product and our brand is something that everyone can use. That's what we see in sports. For 35 years, we've been sponsoring both these assets. And we've just signed a commitment to continue for many more years (till 2032).”

Besides Olympics being its top sponsorship programmes, it also sponsors the World Cup, FIFA World Cup.

With the postponement of Olympics with no spectators, Kumar said that the game still remains a diverse athlete roster for Visa.

Asked how it impacts the overall ROI for the brand, she said, “Obviously, this is a different type of Olympics because they're no spectators, but for us, the way we've looked at it and our commitment overall, there is no difference because we don't measure reach or ROI for a particular sport or a particular event. There's no direct ROI specifically that we work around from the Games. The engagement is on a much larger platform. It's prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics and then after the Olympics. It's slightly different but for us not at all worrying or alarming because it's a much larger engagement that we're looking at.”

Cashless Confidence campaign:

Kumar explained how the pandemic made its work more pervasive.

“It is a very good time for us to help consumers to go cashless. So amid the pandemic we continued to support our cashless initiative, and in fact took it one step higher, and increased our focus on how to pay online through cashless methods. It has made our marketing efforts more intensive during this period,” she said.

Despite other brands in the same space inclining towards digital in the last one year, for Visa, the allocation of budgets between traditional and digital has remained the same.

Visa also advertised in the IPL Season 14 this year and will continue to do so, despite the event getting delayed. In some markets outside India, it associated heavily with fashion as well, including Shanghai Fashion Week or the New York Fashion Week.

Sharing how the brand goes ahead with a particular association, Kumar said, “It (the property) has to fit the brand in terms of its overall brand objective. It has to fit the business objective as well.”

In terms of the alteration/fluctuation of ad rates of these properties amid the pandemic, she said the brand looks at media as an overall marketing return on investments and evaluates rates according to that. As the Olympics have seen a huge viewership, and people at home with so many hopes for medals, it has seen a great response and witnessed no prominent differentiation.

“We are getting the coverage that we're looking for from the Olympics and IPL, both,” she said.


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