Visa’s Approach to Event Sponsorship Could Pay Off for Your Sponsors, Too

Author: David McMillin       

The credit card company invested in an on-site activation during New York Fashion Week, and the model can provide some meaningful lessons for any company looking to connect with attendees.

When New York Fashion Week (NYFW) started in early September, there was a new name on the program. Visa became the event’s official payment technology partner in 2018, and the relationship kicked off with a unique shopping experience for fashion-show consumers that featured the first-ever contactless-enabled retail vending machines. All the vending machines at NYFW were stocked with goods from New York–based female designers, and each purchase delivered two of those items for the price of one. The sponsorship — undoubtedly a hefty investment — makes plenty of sense for the company. Visa has been working hard to motivate customers to embrace contactless payments. After all, tapping a card or a connected device to a terminal is a more efficient transaction that inserting a card into a terminal — benefiting a company that makes money from transactions.

The new relationship wasn’t simply about making Visa a runway model for purchasing behaviors, though. The company also scored the privilege to curate a panel discussion among female leaders who are rethinking the retail experience. Dave Lutz, managing director, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, told PCMA that Visa’s approach offers valuable lessons for any company that invests in event-sponsorship opportunities. Instead of simply trumpeting a sales message, Visa’s on-site activation helped shape a larger conversation.

“It’s sophisticated and smart,” Lutz said. “While it may fall under the ‘pay to play’ category, they invested in this sponsorship to be real thought leaders. They paid for the privilege to host the panel discussion, but they didn’t do it to simply show how great they are. They did it to help accelerate the entire marketplace.”

Thinking About More Than Visa’s Bottom Line

The panel discussion occupied a small portion on the program, but Lutz noted that the impact of Visa’s activation extends well beyond the schedule of events during Fashion Week. The proceeds from the purchase price of all products in the vending machines will go to Women’s World Banking, a nonprofit organization that helps empower low-income female entrepreneurs with financial tools and resources to fuel their business ideas.

“Visa is embracing the tenets of social enterprise,” Lutz said. “They’re thinking about how they can have a double- or triple-bottom line impact.”

Those other bottom lines reflect the company’s social responsibility and its ability to make a positive difference in the world, and they should provide some inspiration for any sponsor. “People appreciate companies,” Lutz said, “that are trying to do good things.”

Looking for more inspiration to share with your sponsors? Check out this article on how The Late Show with Stephen Colbert scored a triple-win with an unexpected sponsorship offering.

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