Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović is set to become the face of Visa's World Cup global marketing campaign, and seems to be a good fit for the brand that spans the world as Ibrahimović has experience playing in 7 different countries to date. That includes the U.S., which is noticeably absent from the year's competition.

While Visa is an international company, it has strong roots in the U.S., which makes this year's World Cup a bigger challenge from a marketing perspective. I spoke about that and other topics with Chris Curtin, Chief Brand and Innovation Marketing Officer at Visa.

When did Visa decide that it would be matching up with a particular player for this year's World Cup and how does it plan to activate around Zlatan?

Curtin: At Visa, we are constantly looking to partner with athletes that share our core values of acceptance, partnership and innovation. With that said, we're thrilled to announce that we have partnered with international football star, Zlatan Ibrahimović, to become the face of our 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia global marketing campaign. We wanted to work with Zlatan because he is known not only for his prowess in sport, but for his character and popularity among fans across the world.

As you can see from the announcement -- this is only a sneak peek into what's to come.  Expect a fully "Zlatanized" Visa campaign this summer. 

How did Visa have to switch its marketing strategy due to America's absense from the World Cup and how will it still seek to capture an American audience?

Curtin: Visa is a global company and as such we cheer on the sport of football, overall. As a FIFA partner for over 10 years, Visa is committed to enhancing the experience for millions of fans across the globe during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. After all, the tournament is one of the world's truly inclusive events that no one wants to miss.

Here in the United States, while we can't unveil the details of the global campaign, certainly the fact that Zlatan is now playing for the LA Galaxy is great for the MLS. However, we were talking to Zlatan well before he made this move.

How will Visa seek to measure its ROI around this particular partnership?

Curtin: At Visa, we look for partners that allow us to elevate our product and innovation story. Through our sponsorship of the NFL, Olympics and FIFA, we are able to explore the implementation of cash-free solutions on the world's largest sporting stages and then use back-end data to improve the fan experience, in hopes of ultimately introducing different form factors to the mass market. 

With estimations that 70% of the world - or more than 5 billion people - will be using connected devices capable of completing mobile payments by 2020, we at Visa have an incredible opportunity to elevate the payment moment for each and every one of them by offering a safe, secure and cash-free fan experience.

What were the challenges Visa faced in terms of finding the right partnerships for this year's World Cup and how did it overcome those challenges?

Curtin: While we don't always partner with talent for our marketing campaigns, our partnership with Zlatan was the only one Visa considered for our upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia global marketing campaign.  We have always been aware of Zlatan's impressive on-field accomplishments, global appeal and colorful personality--it was a natural extension of our brand.

Published on: Apr 17, 2018