Top 10 Innovative Brands 2018: #8 Visa

The payments technology company’s evolving services have inspired its event presence.

By Michele Laufik October 10, 2018, 5:00 AM EDT

In September, Visa served as the official payment technology partner of New York Fashion Week: The Shows. As part of the partnership, the company hosted an on-site activation at Spring Studios that included a contactless-enabled vending machine filled with limited-edition items from designers.

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG

Visa seems to still continue to live by its well-known tagline, “It’s everywhere you want to be.”

Over the past year, Visa expanded its sponsorship portfolio, bringing several new events and a whole lifestyle category—fashion—into the fold to join stalwart sports brands like the N.F.L., F.I.F.A., and the Olympics.

In September, Visa was appointed the official payment technology partner of New York Fashion Week: The Shows. As part of this partnership, the company hosted an on-site activation at Spring Studios that included a contactless-enabled retail experience filled with limited-edition items from designers such as Rebecca Minkoff, Venessa Arizaga, and Neely & Chloe. Each purchase was “buy one, get two” with all of the proceeds benefiting Women’s World Banking, a nonprofit that provides financial tools and resources to low-income female entrepreneurs around the world.

Visa also hosted a panel with Mary Ann Reilly, S.V.P. of North America Marketing for the company, along with female entrepreneurs in the fashion industry, including model and founder of Tropic of C Candice Swanepoel, creative director of Brother Vellies Aurora James, Wells Fargo executive Heather Philp, and co-founder and C.E.O. of Jetblack Jenny Fleiss.

“I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes out there around women's views on money, and we started with looking at millennial women and realizing that they are actually more conservative and more focused on thinking about money than previous generations,” explains Reilly. “So we're connecting the idea that fashion is changing, money is changing, and Visa is bringing the two together.”

As for Visa’s own financial outlook, many forecasters are predicting that the company’s focus on improving payment technology such as the high-tech vending machine at Fashion Week will help expand its customer base and partnerships, as well as its bottom line. The company is #161 in the Fortune 500 rankings, and has been steadily climbing year over year since it landed on the list 10 years ago.

“Our ultimate goal is to enable a better payment experience for fans around the world, so they can spend less time waiting to pay and more time focused on the action of the game.” 

Chris Curtin, Visa’s chief brand and innovation marketing officer, says that the foray into fashion was strategic and reflects a demand within the market. “Our sponsorships do not just revolve around sports, and we are using consumer insights to develop a more holistic viewpoint around our sponsorship strategy. Data shows us that the modern consumer has a number of other passion pillars, including music, travel, and fashion, providing new opportunities for us to explore from an event and activation perspective.”

In addition to New York Fashion Week, Visa has also activated at Shanghai Fashion Week and the Dubai Shopping Festival.

True to form, though, Visa still maintained a strong presence at major global sporting events, including Super Bowl LII, the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and the F.I.F.A. World Cup in Moscow. As the exclusive payment technology partner at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Visa hosted more than 500 clients and consumers in Seoul and Gangneung, offering all-inclusive hotel stays, cultural experiences, and tickets to events. Plus, guests were provided with payment-enabled wearables like badges, gloves, and cards.

At the World Cup, the company offered exclusive experiences to clients and consumers such as backstage tours, including team warm-ups. Plus, guests could enroll in the Visa Now mobile app to interact with custom activations like an augmented-reality game that featured a personalized 3-D avatar and a self-serve beer kiosk featuring its contactless payment technology. The company also installed more than 3,500 new point-of-sales terminals in all 12 stadiums, in addition to 1,000 mobile concession stands.

“Our ultimate goal is to enable a better payment experience for fans around the world, so they can spend less time waiting to pay and more time focused on the action of the game,” explains Curtin. “Our execution will continue to evolve in tandem with the development of new payment innovations, from wearables and contactless cards to emerging form factors that we hope to test further through our sponsorships.”

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