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Mastercard’s masterplan for its ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 sponsorship

By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

October 23, 2023 | 6 min read

On a recent trip to India, Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar told The Drum why it’s added cricket to its increasingly diverse portfolio of sponsorships and customer experiences.

Mastercard's sports sponsorship plans

Mastercard's sports sponsorship plans

After IPL fever, cricket mania is once again gripping India as it hosts the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 through October and November. In front of thousands in stadiums and millions watching live around the world, brands are competing to catch the eye through various associations and sponsorships.

Among them is Mastercard, which has made sports associations a key pillar of its marketing plans. The payments giant recently announced a global partnership with ICC (the global governing body for cricket) with the idea of providing “‘priceless’ experiences to cricket fans during the 2023 Cricket World Cup.”

Speaking with The Drum, its global chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar, explains this is a manifestation of the company pivoting from a "purely advertising-led marketing strategy to an experiences-led marketing strategy".Sponsorships are one of the key routes to creating experiences money cannot buy – if you have a Mastercard.

The brand identified 10 different passion points, from food to music, sports, travel, shopping, philanthropy, environment and sustainability, to identify areas where sponsorships and desired experiences overlap. Of all these areas, Rajamannar shares, sports comes out on top.

Cricket joins football, tennis, golf and Major League Baseball in Mastercard's portfolio of sponsorships. In golf, the company’s endorsements run the gamut of events to individual ambassadors. In tennis, it sponsors the French Open, among other tournaments. Cricket is a relatively new arena, having expanded into the sport in the last 18 months.

As the nation’s most popular sport, nowhere else can match the fanaticism for cricket in India. Already a marquee event, the World Cup taking place in India lends it even more appeal to a brand like Mastercard. But this is a global deal, and the large television audiences outside India for the likes of Australia, England and South Africa adds more weight to its value.

For the ICC sponsorship, Mastercard put together a set of assets and customer privileges including ticket sales exclusively for Mastercard cardholders 24 hours in advance of general sales. In addition, Mastercard customers would get a 20% discount on merchandise available on the ICC website. Other, more curated experiences include being invited into the fan zone and being a part of the live excitement in the stadium.

Mastercard’s challenge is getting people to think not just about what they’re buying, but how they’re buying it. Says Rajamannar: “We are an ingredient brand, but what we are trying to do is by curating these experiences, we are getting more salient in consumers’ minds.” It also reinforces a positive feeling about the brand in the mind space of the consumers as well as the potential ones, he adds.

Meanwhile, Mastercard has been creating and curating ways for people to experience the brand in a physical format, through spaces (branded restaurants) and merchandise (fragrances). The restaurants have so far been launched in five locations across the globe and are all individual and unique ‘experiences’ that are accessible to Mastercard members only. The first of the restaurant concepts was launched in New York – called ‘The Rock’, it has been created as a replica of the restaurant that stands on a rock in the middle of the sea off the coast of Zanzibar in Tanzania. The other locations are Mexico City, Brazil, Hong Kong and Rome – each of them with a unique experience.

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Rajamannar’s desire to bring the brand to life even extends to the senses.

“We launched fragrances in 2021 in select markets initially as luxury fragrances that have been created by some top-notch fragrance developers,” he says.

For sound, it launched a music album called ‘Priceless’ where emerging artists have created songs leveraging the sonic brand of Mastercard. And for blind people, it introduced the ‘Touch card’.

“The idea is to give consumers a chance to experience the brand philosophy, in a physical format,” Rajamannar shares.

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