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A financial services company specializing in credit and debit cards, and with a history of sport sponsorship, having been a founder and constant member of the TOP (The Olympic Programme) selective sponsor model put in place in 1985 by the International Olympic Committee. It also became a sponsor of the men's football/soccer World Cup in 2007, replacing MasterCard after some far from ethical negotiations with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Jerome Valcke of FIFA, who negotiated that deal, told a New York court that in relation to financial services sponsors, if ‘you have to think about various companies potentially who could have an interest or are already in the world of sport, you're thinking about MasterCard and Visa’ (United States District Court, Southern District of New York, MasterCard International Incorporated [plaintiff] versus Fédération Internationale de Football Association [defendant], 06 Civ. 3036 (LAP), ‘Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law’). MasterCard's negotiating team believed that a FIFA financial services package was being presented exclusively to MasterCard, as incumbent partner with a clause for first claim on a new deal. The deception underlying the FIFA–MasterCard negotiations was seen by Chuck Blazer, FIFA Executive Committee member and also on FIFA's Marketing & TV AG Board, as perfectly normal; the New York court wrote that ‘Mr Blazer's testimony was generally without credibility based on his attitude and demeanor and on his evasive answers on cross-examination’. There is no indication that Visa acted in any corrupt fashion in gaining status as World Cup sponsor, but the c.$US100 million sponsoring partnership was gained in full knowledge of the incumbent status of MasterCard. Such select sponsoring partnerships certainly repay the investment (see also Hyundai); but the ethics and morality of the processes by which they are achieved warrant fuller scrutiny.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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