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Visa is perceived as one of the top brands supporting the women’s game. The truth is Mastercard has been a major sponsor of women’s football for 26 years.

How has been the race for the spot of “the credit card of women’s football”?

Mastercard, since 1994

To many people’s surprise, Mastercard started supporting women’s football in 1994, following a strategy of promoting a diverse and inclusive society through sport. To date, the financial services brand has sponsored clubs such as Arsenal FC and Olympique Lyonnais, who recently announced Mastercard’s upgrade to main sponsor.

Several brand ambassadors in women’s football include stars like Ada Hegerberg, Kadeisha Buchanan, Saki Kumagai, Wendie Renard, Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr or Alex Scott, who became a pioneering broadcaster and the first female analyst for men’s football at BBC.

According to Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Mastercard, “by investing significantly in women’s football, as a professional and influential sport, we have an opportunity to directly impact the lives of athletes and help build sustainable programs to which girls and women around the world can aspire.”

Actually, before Visa, Mastercard already developed brand activations in UWCL as official sponsor of the competition in 2017. Under the campaign “Celebrating Women’s Football”, Mastercard claimed women’s football wasn’t celebrated enough.

Visa, the record-breaker

“It’s not about being the first but about doing it differently”. Since the creation of the Team Visa in 2000, the program has sponsored more than 400 athletes, 50% of them now women. Without a doubt, the inflection point took place in 2018 when Visa signed a ground-breaking seven-year deal with UEFA.

“Twenty-one million women and girls participate in the beautiful game across Europe and at Visa we want to celebrate every single one of them”, said Charlotte Hogg, Chief Executive Officer of Visa Europe.

Among their most significant activations, we can find the #WePlayStrong campaign, the European Team Visa Footballers with 15 players, the Visa Summit, The US Women’s National Team, The Second Half initiative that helps in their transition into life after football and competitions such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the American SheBelieves Cup, the UEFA Women’s Euro and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Not just about quantity but quality too, as Visa became the top brand in social media value generated during France FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 with a a Sponsorship Brand Value of $822,485 and a Media Brand Value of $141,716, according to MVP Index. Visa posted 399 times on social media, more than 150 more posts than the brand with the second highest value, Adidas.

Let’s talk about business

Regarding the market share of payment card schemes registered in 15 countries in Europe in 2018, the fight for becoming the top European credit card is very tight, as Visa accounted for 37% of the market share and Mastercard for the 33% of it. While Visa dominates in top European women’s football markets like United Kingdom and Spain, Mastercard leads in the Netherlands and Sweden.

In terms of brand value, only Visa ranked among the Top 30 Meaningful Brands in 2020, occupying the 18th position and perceived as a Category Leader who makes life easier. Visa’s global brand value growth has been exponential, increasing 650% since 2010 until reaching 186.81 billion dollars in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

On its side, Mastercard has accelerated its brand value in the recent years, becoming the fastest-growing company in brand value in 2019 with a 25% growth, followed by Salesforce.com and Amazon. An impressive brand growth but still behind Visa by 30 positions in the Brand Finance Global 500.

A race for relevance

Both Visa and Mastercard have been recently reinforcing their commitment in the women’s game, a landscape where Visa has clearly dominated the spotlight with major digital activations, social and grassroots initiatives and a strong presence in the most prestigious competitions in the elite of women’s football. An investment supported by numbers and word-of-mouth.    

However, Mastercard has rapidly escalated as one of the fastest-growing brands in brand value in the recent years, securing top assets like the front-shirt of Olympique Lyonnais, considered the best team of all time. Besides, according to The Nilson Report, Mastercard has significantly reduced the distance with Visa in market share of leading card brands in terms of purchase volume in Europe. In 2015, Mastercard was behind the leader, Visa, with a distance of 39% in market share. Today, 20%.

For both companies, women’s football seems to have become and continue to be an essential key pillar in their race for social relevance.

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